Most athletes can only dream of turning their passion for sport into a stable income, but Nong Van Chuyen from northern Vietnam has somehow managed to beat the odds and turn his love of long-distance running into solid earnings.
Chuyen, a member of the Tay ethnic minority, has become a household name for those involved in the country’s running scene thanks to his speedy rise to prominence, despite his disadvantaged background.
Born in 1995 to an underprivileged family in the mountainous district of Trang Dinh in the northern province of Lang Son, Chuyen began to head toward southern Vietnam shortly after finishing high school in order to seek out job opportunities.
On his way south, he stopped in the Central Highlands city of Da Lat where he worked as a bricklayer and a waiter for a short time before finally making it to Ho Chi Minh City in 2013.
Chuyen’s first job in the southern metropolis was working as a porter for a meager VND100,000 (US$4.3) per day, barely enough to survive, he told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
In search of respite from his daily struggle to survive, Chuyen took up long-distance running in order to stay healthy, both physically and mentally.
“Despite my financial difficulties, I once spent half of my monthly salary registering for an amateur marathon while also making installment purchases for a pair of running shoes,” he recalled.
In 2015, Chuyen moved to Hanoi to care for his mother after she was diagnosed with kidney failure.
But by November of that year, she passed away and Chuyen once again found himself roaming the country in search of work.
|Nong Van Chuyen races at the Vietnam Mountain Marathon 2017 in Sa Pa in the mountainous province of Lao Cai in this provided photo|
Still, even with life’s curve balls constantly being hurled at him, Chuyen refused to give up his love of running, typically chalking up three to four hours of training per day.
“Nothing can prevent me from running,” Chuyen said.
And that persistence has truly paid off.
In the short time since he first took up the sport, he has won nearly 100 medals and built a career for himself.
“Everyone has a dream, but not everyone is lucky enough to make their dream come true,” Chuyen explained.
For Chuyen, that dream started coming true in 2016 when a friend who runs a gym in Hanoi hired him to train customers on the proper way to use a treadmill.
Around that time he also began offering lessons to new runners and coaching them before races.
His interaction with the local running community prompted him to open an online sport clothing store specializing in running wear and footwear.
Now, just three years later, his store’s average monthly revenue tops VND600 million ($25,800) a month and he is able to provide jobs for four employees.
Apart from participating in marathons, working as a marathon coach, running a sportwear shop, and supplying volunteers to help manage the races in Vietnam, Chuyen serves as a symbol of the perseverance and determination it takes to make dreams come true.