More than 4,000 runners from 40 nations will race up to 70km across the mountainous terrain of Moc Chau as the plum blossoms bloom ahead of Lunar New Year. Top runners from Vietnam including a SEA Games gold medalist will compete with international elites. Celebrity runners include Ngoc Chau, Mau Thuy, Nguyen Lam Thao Tam and Nguyen Ngoc Thanh Tam.
Founded in 2019, Vietnam Trail Marathon has become established as one of the biggest races on the Southeast Asian trail circuit.
The opportunity to run on remote trails through blossom-filled orchards and between timeless minority villages set in beautiful landscapes attracts runners from all over Vietnam, while 39 other nations will also be represented on race day. This race is famed for its warmly welcoming locals who line the village roads supporting runners. Many of the locals are Hmong people, and because it is Hmong New Year during the race weekend, runners can expect to see them dressed in their finest traditional clothing.
The finish line is also a big attraction of this race as it is one of the most beautifully located finishes in the world, set among the Heart Shaped Tea Hill of Moc Chau.
The male race sees an in-form Valentin Orange of France on the start line. In his 2023 race season he put in a string of top performances, including four trail run victories – two in Vietnam and two in France. Back in 2021 he also won the Vietnam Trail Marathon 70k – his first ultra victory. This was also the same race at which Ha Hau won her first ever ultra.
Valentin cites that victory as a key reason he is returning this year: “This is a race I am very fond of, since this is where I won my first ultra!” he says.
Valentin’s top competitor will be Nguyen Tien Hung, who scored a significant trail victory in 2023 – the prestigious 100k at Vietnam Mountain Marathon. Hung has also stood on the top step at Vietnam Trail Marathon – he won the 70k in 2022.
Given the fast racing that can be expected right from the gun between this pair, there is a prospect of the 70k course record being under threat. That blistering fast course record of 7:06:56 is currently held by Quang Tran, who set his time on the slightly different, but comparable course back in 2020.
Other male podium contenders include Nguyen Si Hieu, who won the VTM 21k last year; plus Nguyen Tien Vo, second place VJM 70k 2023; and Nguyen Duc Tuan Anh, winner of the VJM 50k and second place at VTM 70k in 2023.
Vanja Cnops of Belgium will return to Vietnam Trail Marathon to take on the 70k following her two previous 42k wins at this race. Vanja is a huge fan of racing in Vietnam, having previously also scored multiple victories at Sapa’s Vietnam Mountain Marathon and Pu Luong’s Vietnam Jungle Marathon.
Vanja will be racing a relative newcomer to Vietnam’s trail scene, Le Thi Hang. Despite only taking up running in 2022, in 2023 Hang completed a full marathon (42km) every single day of the year, completing her Marathon 365 project. She also came a strong second at the Vietnam Mountain Marathon 100k, very close behind the far more experienced winner – Man Yee of Hong Kong.
On racing in Moc Chau, Le Thi Hang says: “I am curious about the beauty of the blossom and as a trail runner, I like to immerse myself in nature.”
Hang will give a talk at the VTM Expo about her 365 project: “I want to spread the word about my love of running. I knew nothing about running at first, but when I set my sights on the 365 project, I got very serious about my path and goal,” she says.
Other podium contenders include Sutinee Rasp of Thailand who is coming back to Vietnam again following her third place at VMM 70k last year. Akane Nemoto of Japan, winner of the VMM 70k and third at VTM 70k in 2022, will also be one to watch.
The women’s 42k sees a lot of talent from Vietnam. Hong Le is a professional with a glowing list of results including 1 gold, 4 silver medals and 2 bronze medals at the SEA Games. She has also previously won the VTM 21k. It will be very interesting to see how she performs on the 42k distance in Moc Chau. a
Alongside her will be Luong Thi Loi who took second at the VTM 70k and third at the VMM 100k, both in 2023. Another podium contender is Nguyen Thi Tra Giang, who will be looking to improve on her third place in the 42k at VTM last year.
The men’s 42k field includes the runner with the highest Index at VTM 42k this year, Harry Wager of New Zealand. He is racing off the back of two wins in 2023 – the 3 Peaks 26k in New Zealand and the Ultribe Paderu 50k. Harry will be up against Vincent Cassanova from France, who has a road marathon time of 2:34 – speed that could convert to a fast time on the VTM course.
Celeb runners in the 21k this year include Ngoc Chau, Miss Universe Vietnam 2022; Mau Thuy, runner-up Miss Universe Vietnam 2017; and Thuy Tien, runner-up Miss Universe Vietnam 2022. Talented actresses Nguyen Ngoc Thanh Tam and Nguyen Lam Thao Tam will be taking on the 10k race.
Every Vietnam Trail Series race by Topas contributes money to charitable work. The money raised from Vietnam Trail Marathon 2024 brings the total series amount to around USD445,000.
On race weekend, much needed medical equipment to treat critically ill newborn babies will be formally presented to the local Moc Chau hospital by representatives of the race organizer, Topas together with Newborns Vietnam.
Furthermore, over 50 disadvantaged kids and their support staff from Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation are being fully supported to take part by organizer, Topas. The kids will be brought from Hanoi to enjoy a night in Moc Chau before joining the race, adding further meaning to the event.
Past Moc Chau projects funded by the race include support for poor households and a long term capacity building project for baby units carried out by Newborns Vietnam.