Defying the current heat in northern Vietnam, a trio of expats on Tuesday completed a 300km non-stop relay run from Hanoi to neighboring Lao Cai Province, with the aim to raise funds and awareness for neonatal mortality and newborn health in Vietnam.
The three runners included Marieke Dekkers from the Netherlands and Rob West and Grant Bowdery, both from the UK.
“We are ok now!” swimming coach West exclaimed to Tuoi Tre News a day after the run, explaining that the trio had overcome their exhaustion from the long run.
Each member of the trio would run for an hour at a time, followed by a two-hour rest on a bus that accompanied the group throughout the trip, West explained.
“We ran through the night," he added.
|Rob West (2nd from R), Grant Bowdery (3rd from R) and Marieke Dekkers (3rd from L) pose for a picture at the Lao Cai Obstetrics Hospital in the namesake northern province, the final stop of the Red River Run, on April 23, 2019. Photo: Red River Run|
The run set off in Hanoi at 5:00 am on April 22, and was completed in 29 hours and 45 minutes, more than six hours ahead of schedule.
The runners also kept their followers updated on their progress through their The Red River Run Facebook page.
“Run at night: That is nothing compared to the newborns fight. So many sweet messages and donations that came in, we are blessed that we can experience this with so many,” they wrote.
“The last few hours have been mainly on bumpy sandy paths, with many dogs defending their kingdom with their barking at night,” the trio live-reported from their journey.
36 hours of a newborn life
The Red River Run was organized by Newborns Vietnam, a UK-registered NGO dedicated to reducing neonatal mortality in Southeast Asia with a specific focus on Vietnam.
The run’s main goal was to raise much-needed funds for preventing neonatal mortality, or the death of young children under the age of one, in Vietnam.
About 17,000 newborns in Vietnam die every year within the first 28 days of their birth, accounting for approximately 52 percent of total infant deaths below the age of five.
All of these numbers relate to the run’s planned time of 36 hours.
“As the first 36 hours of a newborn life can be hard and the most challenging, we would like to run for those 36 hours to raise money for Vietnam Newborns and challenge ourselves,” the trio explained.
“We have the privilege to be able to choose how we fill our lives,” they added.
“Many newborns in the world have only one mission: survival, but we will run for them and every kilometer will make a difference."
|The trio pose for a picture at the Lao Cai Obstetrics Hospital in the namesake northern province, the final stop of the Red River Run on April 23, 2019. Photo: Red River Run|
In addition, the trio’s love of Vietnam and their wish to give back to the country they love were definitely a key motivator throughout the run.
“I was taken aback by the kindness and generosity of Vietnamese people when I moved here, and this is one of the big reasons why I have been here nearly five years with no plans of leaving anytime soon,” West wrote on The Red River Run Facebook page.
“We love Vietnam and want to give back to the country that has been so welcoming, by doing something we love,” he added.
Meanwhile, Bowdery said that his “motivation to share the challenge with Marieke and Rob was to take on a challenge that could benefit the lives and families of others, not for a finishers medal or a personal best time, not for myself - but to run for others.”
In preparation for the run, West, Bowdery and Dekkers had regular practices and ran a combined total of 2,800km in 2019.
So far, the Red River Run has raised US$18,700, 62 percent of the $30,000 target they hoped to reach on justgiving.com.
The funding is said to be “desperately needed” for a range of purposes, from the purchase of incubators for premature babies and other life-saving equipment to training doctors and nurses in newborn care.
On April 21, a three-kilometer fun run was held around Hanoi’s Chua Lang area where 750 doctors and nurses participated to show support for the trio before their fundraising effort.
|A picture of Marieke Dekkers posted on The Red River Run Facebook page with the caption reading “90km covered and Marieke is going strong with the Red River in the background.” Photo: Red River Run|