Expats in Saigon attempt marathon run in support of neonatal care charity

Published:  16 Apr at 6 PM
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Three determined expats living and working in Saigon are to attempt a charity relay run between Vietnam’s Saigon city and Lao Cai in just 36 hours.

On April 22, Brits Grant Bowdery and Rob West along with Marieke Dekkers from the Netherlands will attempt a non-stop relay run along the Red River’s banks between their base in Saigon and 300km distant Lao Cai. The 300km run is estimated to take 36 hours, requiring an average of around seven minutes per kilometre, with the runners changing places every one to two hours.

The aim of the gruelling run is to raise £30,000 for newborn neonatal care. According to biology teacher Grant, a keen cyclist and ultra-distance runner, there’s a possibility they may fail to reach their target time as the route is demanding, especially on the hilly approach to Lao Cai. Whilst each runner is in action, the remaining two will rest, eat and rehydrate in a specially equipped mini-van driven by the runners’ driver and including their support team. As they’ll be running through the night, sleep deprivation will need to be factored in and nutrition will be all-important, especially during the heat of the day. Grant believes the run is the toughest they’ve even undertaken, adding it’s also potentially the most rewarding.

Starting at 4.a.m from Hanoi’s National Children's’ Hospital, the three runners will pass through rural market towns and agricultural countryside, finally heading uphill towards the frontier province of Lao Cai and its border with China. Most visitors to the region use the train, and Grant is pretty certain no-one has ever done the journey on foot. The route itself passes by a number of clinics and small hospitals with which the beneficial charity Newborns Vietnam works, with Lao Cai the most distant.

Those wishing to support the run can do so at the JustGiving website, with donations already standing at $16,100, a great start for the charity. All the money raised will be allocated between ongoing training costs for specialist neonatal doctors and nursing staff and the purchase of essential equipment. Symbolically, the 36–hour run is the exact time after birth when babies are at most risk, with almost 7 out of every 1,000 newborns in Vietnam not making it for a variety of reasons, according to the World Heath Organisation. Since last year, seasoned runner Marieke has run all of her challenging races as an ambassador for the same charity.
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