By Thanh Nga
Running has changed the life of trail runner Đỗ Trọng Nhơn, and it is through this healthy pastime that he wishes to help more people lead fuller, richer lives.
With this in mind, Nhơn has just completed the challenge of running through the night for nine hours to complete a distance of 100km in HCM City, calling on sponsors and individuals to donate money for child cleft palate surgery.
Nhơn has collected more than VNĐ600 million (US$26,270) to help 60 children have their smiles recreated, exceeding his initial goal of “Five Smiles” for children, with each operation costing VNĐ10 million.
In addition, he has also auctioned the Garmin Enduro watch that he used in training, and donated the proceeds to disadvantaged children.
“Once, when I participated in a running event, I saw that the organisers raised funds for children with cleft palates and cleft lip surgery across the country through the Operation Smile organisation,” Nhơn told Việt Nam News.
“After seeing the banner with the picture of a child holding a photo before surgery and after surgery with a bright smile, I learned about Operation Smile and the meaningful projects it has conducted throughout Việt Nam. Since then, I thought that one day I must do something with my passion for running and to bring positive things to the community and children.
“In the future, I will do similar meaningful challenges. I would like to thank all my benefactors, friends and the running community who have followed my project. Without this companionship, I would not have been able to do it.”
Nhơn is a famous trail runner in Việt Nam, having won many domestic and foreign ultra trail tournaments. But he had never completed a 100km race before; trying it once but having to stop before he could finish.
Moreover, like many other people in sport, Nhơn was negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021. He used the challenge of running 100km as a way to motivate him to train more.
“This is not just a physical challenge. With ‘Run100,’ I also wanted to spread the message of running: starting with the community and bringing positive values to the community,” said Nhơn.
With a lot of experience in training and competition, Nhơn designed a 12-week training plan for himself to be ready to conquer the 100km challenge.
“This is the first time I have completed the 100km road race. Although I did not reach the set goal of eight hours and 30 minutes, I have no regrets at all because I tried my best,” said Nhơn.
Nhơn overcame the cold of HCM City late at night, cramps, tight calves, and an overloaded and tired body to complete the challenge, with an average speed of five minutes and 24 seconds per kilometre.
He burst into tears and was trembling and speechless when he reached the finish line.
“Running ultra road races is much more difficult than an ultra trail. Trail running has uphill and downhill sections. I even walk when the terrain changes, thereby, helping many muscle groups to work alternately, reducing the load of one muscle group,” said Nhơn.
“But the ultra road race is different as fatigue is concentrated on one muscle group, and I must just keep running to the finish line. This success is not just for me, but for the efforts and support of the whole running community that accompanied me.”
Running, indispensable part of life
“Over the past three months, it has been a precious and quiet time for me to find answers to my plans and interests,” he said.
“I also don’t know when running became an integral part of my life. If I am asked is it important? Yes of course. If asked, is it worth trading for other precious things in life? Of course not. I don’t need to run to sustain my life, but running is enough to change my life a lot.”
From the time Nhơn started running until now, he has never considered position or ranking in an event as a goal, as he believes the goal is for himself alone. He always wants to train harder to improve himself and get better every day.
“With running, I find myself changing day by day, physically and mentally. I’m stronger. I’m healthier. I’m less sick. I’m calmer. I’m more disciplined. I’m happier, My attitude toward things is more diverse. I have many new friends and I experience more. I believe that I have more vitality and more material in life and work,” he said.
“After all, the best way to maintain good values in any sport is to start with the community and bring positive things to the community. We will be happier if the people around us are also.”
Passion for running
After graduating from the National Academy of Public Administration in HCM City in 2017, Nhơn didn’t return to his hometown of Bình Định Province but was determined to set himself up somewhere else.
At the end of that year, he passed the exam to join the provincial Tây Ninh Department of Home Affairs, and officially became its staff member in 2018.
In addition to working at the office, he also prioritises his remaining time for studying, practising sports as well as participating in running events.
In June 2019, Nhơn competed in the Penang Eco 100 tournament in Malaysia and won the 50km category, becoming the first Vietnamese athlete to win the race, officially putting Việt Nam on the running map of countries in the region.
Later, he won the 55km distance in the Việt Nam Jungle Marathon 2019 in Pù Luông in Thanh Hóa Province. In addition, he won the 75km category in the Dalat Ultra Trail in 2019, and finished second in the 70km race in the Việt Nam Mountain Marathon 2019, and was runner-up in the 60km race of the Loop Ultra Trail 2019.
This year, Nhơn won the 21km category of the Bà Rá Mountain Climbing Tournament and was chosen as the ambassador for the Bà Đen Mountain Marathon 2021 in Tây Ninh in April.
However, because of his love of running, he quit his job at the Tây Ninh Department of Home Affairs to become a running coach of Garmin Run Club Vietnam, as well as a personal running coach.
“My goal next year is to take part in some important events to qualify for the UTMB, one of the most famous ultra races in Europe, and the Sparthlon, a historic ultra-distance foot race that takes place in September of every year in Greece. I also plan to do many meaningful things for disadvantaged children,” he said. VNS