Now in its sixth edition, VJM is set to play host to runners from 40 nations on the beautiful trails of Pu Luong Nature Reserve. Runners will race distances up to 70k on challenging terrain. The quality field of international athletes includes a multiple long distance world record holder. VJM is the final race of the 2023 season from the Topas Vietnam Trail Series, which includes Vietnam Mountain Marathon.
New for 2023, most Vietnam Jungle Marathon races will begin in Leo village in the heart of Pu Luong Nature Reserve. This is one of Vietnam’s most beautiful and pristine areas, with rugged limestone mountains, cascading waterfalls and quaint traditional villages complete with water wheels.
The race will take ultra runners over Doi Troi mountain peak, through Ban Hieu and across to Kho Muong village. It finally finishes in the ethnic Thai community of Ban Hang where organiser, Topas, works with the community to create an international race village, with homestays accommodating hundreds of the 1,500 international runners who join the event.
Race Director, David Lloyd, says: “We started VJM in 2017 when Pu Luong was quite hard to get to and there were very few accommodation options in the area. Moreover, very few people had heard of Pu Luong back then. However, we saw the beauty and the huge potential of this very special and unique place. This year we will welcome over 1,500 runners from 40 nations to Pu Luong Nature Reserve. These runners will enjoy scenic beauty, great trail and the warm, welcoming culture of the ethnic Thai people of the area.”
Among the men is a very interesting athlete – Austria’s Rainer Predl. To understand his ability, it is best to look at record results, not race results. He holds the world record for the longest treadmill run in 7 days with 853.46 km. To do this he ran for 168 hours in the week and slept only 15 hours. Back in 2011 he held the 100 km treadmill record with 7 hours 15 minutes. This record has since been broken. His most unique record was set in 2020 when he completed the longest run around a kitchen table with 70 km completed on a 6.35 m circuit. It remains to be seen how 70k on Vietnam’s trails compares to 70k around a table….
Joining VJM this year, Rainer shared: “I would also like to dedicate the Vietnam jungle to my late father and a good running friend who lost their lives too early last year and this year.
This will be a very emotional but important run in Vietnam for me and I’m really looking forward to it.”
On his own chances of success on Vietnam’s trails, he said: “Of course I’m a road runner, but in Austria I have the wonderful opportunities to train and gain experience in mountains. A few years ago I was able to place on the podium in a 100km trail run in Austria. However, I am an underdog and a surprise package. Anything can happen!”
The stage is set for an international competition with high quality trail runners from Vietnam and overseas.
The women’s race will see Hoka athlete Kellie Angel start as a favourite following her win at le Tour de Cabrenc and her second place at Laveredo by UTMB 80k. She will be joined by Erin Kelly from the UK. Like Kellie, Erin will be racing in Vietnam for the first time. Erin’s podiums include two solid UK 3rd place results: Salomon Serpent Trail 100k and the Sunrise Ultra 138k. Among the Vietnamese runners is VMM 100 miles champion Nguyen Phuong alongside Luong Thi Loi, who is racing hot off her 3rd place at VMM 100k, just weeks ago.
Alongside Rainer Predl is Ferdinand Airault of France, whose results include a win at the 9 Dragons 50k and a 2nd at the Hoka One One Rocky Racoon 100 miles. Another podium favourite will be Vietnam’s Nguyen Si Hieu, winner of MANTRA 100 and Vietnam Trail Marathon 2023. He will be joined by compatriot Nguyen Minh Tuan. Tuan won VJM 70k back in 2018 and has since scored podiums at other Topas Vietnam Trail Series races. Jean Haniquaut of France is another one to watch.
Like every race by Topas, VJM has a charity element. A school in the finish village is set for upgrading with classrooms and teacher rooms using VND500million from VJM. Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation also benefits from the race, with 50 kids and staff being fully funded to join the race, with transport from Hanoi and accommodation and food in the race village.
Following VJM, runners can sign up for the new race from Topas: Vietnam Ultra Marathon. For this new event, registration is now open, which will be the fourth race from Topas. VUM will take place in Mai Chau, Hoa Binh, with trails of up to 70km.