Association of International Marathons and Distance Races

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Marathon movers

07 April 2023, 1pm

Distance running has spread widely throughout the world over the last four decades. Vietnam is at the forefront of the latest geographical expansion

Boom time

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At the time of AIMS’ foundation, 40 years ago, the running boom was in its infancy. The largest marathons in the world at that time, New York and London, attracted around 15,000 participants. This was ten times more than the number of runners who had completed any marathon ever held up until six years beforehand. Despite what we might now see as modest numbers there was no doubt that it was a boom.

Forty years and several further ‘booms’ later Vietnam has most recently come under the spotlight with 10,000 runners taking part in the Techcombank Ho Chi Minh International Marathon in September 2022.

The popularity of running as a mass participation sport has spread unevenly through the decades and even more unevenly in terms of geography. The jump was made from North America to Europe but beyond, into Asia, Japan and Korea stood alone with their long running traditions. Marathons were run in a few places like Hong Kong and Bangkok, and Vietnam hosted marathons in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in the mid-1990s

The Vietnamese races alternated between the two venues and were staged by a Hong Kong-based American expatriate. It was a brave attempt to sow the marathon seed but the conditions in Vietnam were not favourable for it at that time.

Elsewhere in Asia they were becoming more so, with dramatic increases in the number of races held and the number of runners in each race. In India, In China and latterly in Thailand distance running has become an increasingly popular pursuit.

Vietnam still held back but in 2013 the Da Nang Marathon was set up and sparked a popular response. Where there had previously been no running culture races and runners sprang up in many attractive new destinations. AIMS Technical Director Dave Cundy, who was involved in the establishment of the Da Nang Marathon, remembers that the race was sold to Pulse Active in 2015.

That the race held real value could only be based on race organisers’ confidence that city authorities could see the advantages of hosting an event and would continue to grant them the right to use the roads. Once this was understood races started to multiply and organisers set up ‘sister’ events in other cities.

And sometimes in the same city: while in the mid-1990s Vietnam’s two largest cities – Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi – rotated a marathon between them they now boast multiple marathons apiece while Da Lat and Da Nang, as two of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam, have two events each.

Location 2022 2021 2019
Ho Chi Minh City 6 1 4
Ha Noi 6 3 6
Da Nang 2 – 1
Da Lat 2 – 3

The main organisers include Sunrise Events, Race Jungle and VnExpress who have all hosted more than three events each year.

The Techcombank Ho Chi Minh City International Marathon has been the largest marathon in Vietnam in terms of participants for the last three years. The point-to-point route runs through five districts and one city (Thu Duc City), linking 17 remarkable symbols of vibrant Ho Chi Minh City including its two iconic bridges. Thu Thiem Bridge and Ba Son Bridge are showcased by the race which contributes to promoting Ho Chi Minh City’s tourism. [Registration is now open for the 6th edition at:]

The inaugural Techcombank Ha Noi Marathon was run in September 2022 For the first time runners of the 42.2km distance had the chance to conquer the Nhat Tan Bridge, the largest cable-stayed bridge in Vietnam and a new symbol for a developing Hanoi. The race, organised by Sunrise Events, is the first in Vietnam to empower a woman as the race director. It also has the biggest individual prize pool in Vietnam. [Registration is now open for the 2nd Edition at:]

The list of marathons in Vietnam is growing all the time. – unfailingly accompanied by several shorter-distance supporting races. Most recently a nationwide series of races has been set up by the VnExpress news website group.

VnExpress Marathon Sparkling Quy Nho
VnExpress Marathon Marvelous Nha Trang
VnExpress Marathon Ho Chi Minh City Midnight
VnExpress Marathon Hanoi Midnight
VnExpress Marathon Amazing Ha Long
VnExpress Marathon Imperial Hue

The names of these races highlight the touristic qualities that the organisers wish to project. Although tourism has not yet fully recovered from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic it is clear that the longer-term strategy is to attract tourists to participate in these races.


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