The first-ever half marathon race on one of the most beautiful and rocky trails in Vietnam’s northern mountainous area, near the famous Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark, is scheduled to kick off late April.
The race, named “Run on the Trail of Happiness,” is expected to attract 450 international and domestic marathoners, both professional and amateur, the organizer, the administration of Ha Giang Province, said on Thursday.
The provincial administration said the competition will be held to promote tourism for the province, known for the Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark, a UNESCO recognized site.
Located at an altitude of 1,000m-1,600m, the plateau is one of the country’s most unique limestone areas, containing significant imprints of the development of the earth's crust.
Beside the half marathon event, the race will also feature an amateur category, with a 5km race for male participants and a 3km race for female runners.
It is expected that 200 runners of the half marathon event will start at 7:00 am on April 30 at Dong Van Town, embarking on a 21-km race through the famous Ma Pi Leng mountain pass to the Meo Vac Town.
250 amateur runners will compete only from Meo Vac Town only.
H'Mong women atop Ma Pi Leng
The province will earmark some VND3 billion (US$133,929) to fund the competition, with a considerable amount allocated to financially support participants.
Participants hailing from the central city of Da Nang and southern provinces will be provided with VND2 million ($90) in financial aid, while those from Da Nang and northward will receive VND1 million ($45) each. No such support will be provided for international runners.
The champion of the half marathon race will receive a cash prize of VND12 million ($536), and the amateur winner, VND4 million ($179).
The Ha Giang administration said the race will only be funded by the provincial budget. Some participants have also said they will not accept the monetary support and instead suggest donating the money to local needy children.
Ha Giang is one of the most poverty-stricken provinces in Vietnam. Local authorities therefore hope that the race will help boost the province’s tourism sector.
“We will be very thankful if runners refuse to receive the financial support for their participations to help save our budget,” the provincial deputy chairman Tran Duc Quy said.
Ma Pi Leng
The idea of hosting a half marathon race passing Ma Pi Leng has been hailed as audacious by Nguyen Manh Hung, deputy general director of Vietnam’s track-and-field federation.
“Only the first four kilometers of this track are flat, the rest is full of rugged slopes,” he said.
“The low oxygen levels atop the plateau will also be a challenge for runners, though running there will be a unique experience.”