Vietnam’s recent history remains fresh in the minds of the world’s citizenry, but the nation is busily redefining itself as a modern society.

Becoming a marathon mecca is part of that Renaissance, so if your idea of starting a new year on the right footing includes a race that suits your schedule on 14 January 2018, what could surpass a spot on the start line of your preferred category at Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City Marathon?

History lessons

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a quarter century since the first Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) International Marathon was staged in 1992. That inaugural event was staged by Vietnam’s Association of Athletic Federation and HCMC Department of Culture and Sports in hopes that a marathon could help mend old wounds, energise the country and welcome visitors. But the timing was wrong, so the race enjoyed only a three-year run.

Twenty years later, authorities realised the time had arrived to put the HCMC Marathon back on a fast track, thus it re-appeared on the international running calendar in 2013. How successful was this re-boot? Extremely so. Vietnam is fast becoming recognised as a serious player on the Asian marathon scene.

Longer distances were added incrementally and a Kids Dash debuted on the race menu. Over the past four years, this competition has gained standing, increased in size and expanded so broadly, renaming it the HCMC-The City Marathon officially cements this race’s place on the worldwide stage. Expect 2018 to be the best year yet, which is why you must be there!

Too many choices? Not at the HCMC

When the fledgling Ho Chi Minh City marathon was staged back in 1992, organisers offered only a few distance choices, but that all changed in 2013 as categories were added to each year’s run. These days, that number tops off at a whopping six: 1km and 2km kid’s events, traditional adult divisions of 5km and 10km and one of the most popular distances of all, the 21km.

The full marathon joins the roster, so if nothing but a 42km will do, sign up and make your family proud. Registration at the HCMC is already underway and if you book your place on the start line before 31 October 2017, you’re eligible for the early bird rate that gives you more cash in your pocket for sightseeing, travel and food. Where to go to grab your slot? Spacebib, of course.

Event recommendations

The 1km kids dash is recommended for children 6 to 10, though you can be as old as 13 to compete. Kids interested in doubling down on distance between the ages of 6 and 13 can sign up for the 2km. All of the adult categories are open to men and women so if 5km, 10 km, 21km or 42km suits your fancy, expect an equal-opportunity field: This could be the chance you’ve wanted to handily beat the opposite sex.

Race pack collection is slated to be held between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. on 13 January (organisers have yet to select the location, but keep that date open). There’s only a one-hour window to pick up entitlements for both Kids’ Dashes, so you may as well show up early as pick-up for kids’ entitlements is from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.

Don’t just run your race!

There’s much to see in Ho Chi Minh City proper, so plan to visit some of these sites when you sort your calendar:

  • See the War Remnants Museum for a sobering look at battles, a story artfully told with tanks, war machines and planes plus stories about how this war began and ended. Also visit Reunification Palace, the military’s allied command headquarters where peace was finally declared.
  • Explore the Cu Chi Tunnels, another vestige of the war that gives visitors a realistic feel for how Viet Cong military members lived during those years of conflict.
  • Take in the breathtaking Cao Dai Temple, the world centre of a faith that includes beliefs culled from five Eastern religions. Don a white robe for your visit and learn about this egalitarian faith. Include a visit to Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, too.
  • Don’t miss the Jade Emperor Pagoda, an ancient place of worship that remains the most revered temple in Vietnam for Taoists and Buddhists. The architecture and statues alone are worth the stop. Continue on to another landmark: the Mariamman Hindu Temple.
  • The Bitexco Tower is a spectacular example of Ho Chi Minh City’s future. At 68-storeys it offers views you won’t find elsewhere—especially at sunset or sundown. Shop for food at the Binh Tay Market built by the French in the 1880s and don’t miss the city’s central post office opened in 1891 and designed by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame.
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Nathan Lin

Nathaniel is a certified personal trainer from Hong Kong and holds a master’s degree in psychology and exercise physiology. As a columnist for RunSociety, he aims to provide the readers with the information they need to make educated and informed health and fitness decisions, yet often adding in his funny observations.

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