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World Marathon Majors’ 1st Vietnamese woman finisher inspires community

World Marathon Majors’ 1st Vietnamese woman finisher inspires community

Saturday, March 30, 2024, 13:54 GMT+7
World Marathon Majors’ 1st Vietnamese woman finisher inspires community
Nguyen Tieu Phuong participates in a mountain race. Photo: NVCC

Recognized by World Marathon Majors, the biggest marathon competition in the world, as the first Vietnamese woman to ever complete all six race tracks, Nguyen Tieu Phuong is a source of inspiration and role model for Vietnam’s running community.

Phuong returned to Vietnam last week after participating in the 39th Los Angeles Marathon, organized each year by the McCourt Foundation in Los Angeles City, California, the U.S.

Although not as prestigious as the World Marathon Majors, it is a relatively popular marathon with over 26,000 runners.  

Phuong’s personal story is a testament against anyone who thinks they have aged past their athletic prime.  

She participated in her first World Marathon Major in 2019 at the age of 46.

Nguyen Tieu Phuong shows off the badges that she earned from finishing all six of the World Marathon Majors, March 2023. Photo: NVCC
Nguyen Tieu Phuong shows off the badges that she earned from finishing all six of the World Marathon Majors, March 2023. Photo: NVCC

In just four years, she competed in the world’s six most prestigious marathons – Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, New York, and Chicago.

Naturally, it was a long, arduous journey of preparation before Phuong could reach the prestigious peak of endurance sport.

One sentence that changed everything

“When I turned 40 in 2013, I decided to give myself a trip to New York,” Phuong said.

“Coincidentally, the city was hosting a marathon at that time.

“It was such a grand event that I had to take pictures and show it to a foreign trainer living in Vietnam at that time.

“He told me verbatim: “Those who participate in this competition are all ‘monsters,’ normal people like us can never hope to match up with.”

That simple statement stayed with her.

Nguyen Tieu Phuong participates in the Ho Chi Minh City Marathon 2024 in Ho Chi Minh City, January 14, 2024. Photo: NVCC
Nguyen Tieu Phuong participates in the Ho Chi Minh City Marathon 2024 in Ho Chi Minh City, January 14, 2024. Photo: NVCC

After returning to Vietnam, Phuong began to research running.

With her job as a trainer at a famous fitness center in Ho Chi Minh City, Phuong was already in shape and had great endurance. 

She then spent the next six months training and teaching herself everything there was to know about running.

“At that time, running was not as popular in Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam as it is now,” shared Phuong.

“There were only two running groups in Saigon.

“I, like everyone else, ended up having to teach myself everything, like what is the correct posture for running and what a runner should eat.

“Slowly, more and more people started to join running communities and share their own experience so that everyone could learn from them.”

Two years later, Phuong began participating in marathons, though she did injure herself several times along the way.  

Building a community

The day after the Los Angeles Marathon 2024, Phuong’s Facebook was filled with countless pictures of her standing confidently on the course in a fluffy pink dress.

Nguyen Tieu Phuong poses on a rock with her hiking gear, 2023. Photo: NVCC
Nguyen Tieu Phuong poses on a rock with her hiking gear, 2023. Photo: NVCC

“My dream is to cultivate a great community of female runners,” said Phuong.

“Everyone knows women face difficulties in sports, whether those are physical issues or ideological barriers.

“Without a large community, many women find it hard to learn more about sports.”

For the past year, Phuong and many famous female runners have been working on a community project to help 100,000 women run five kilometers.

Nguyen Tieu Phuong participates in a triathlon competition. Photo: NVCC
Nguyen Tieu Phuong participates in a triathlon competition. Photo: NVCC

“Why five kilometers? Because it is a distance suited for beginners and it is enough to at least keep our bodies healthy,” Phuong explained.

On the side, Phuong also founded a small club named “Pink,” for people to share healthy lifestyles and their love of sports.

“The condition for women who want to join Pink is to be able to run five kilometers,” Phuong said.

“If a person can run five kilometers, that proves they are aware of the necessity of exercising.

“After that, they can move on to other challenges.

“Many people become injured or discouraged, but we are working together in order to help every woman enjoy sports in the right way,” shared Phuong.

“When I was younger, I never thought that a woman with a family and stable job like me could have participated in the world’s top running competitions.”

Nguyen Tieu Phuong (R) participates in the Los Angeles Marathon 2024 in Los Angeles City, California, USA. Photo: NVCC
Nguyen Tieu Phuong (R) participates in the Los Angeles Marathon 2024 in Los Angeles City, California, the U.S. Photo: NVCC

Phuong shared that her next goals were to run some of the most beautiful marathons in the world, including the Sydney Marathon on September 15 and, eventually, Athens.

“I hope that I can one day participate in the Athens Marathon so I can see where the Olympics were created,” Phuong shared.

“Since I pay for all my trips myself, I can only participate in international marathons two to three times a year.”

Marathon is the name of a valley 42.195 kilometers from Athens, Greece.

According to legend, a Greek warrior named Pheidippides ran across that distance to bring news back to his homeland but passed away immediately after arriving.

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Hanh Chu - Huy Dang / Tuoi Tre News

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