The Tien Phong Newspaper National Marathon Championship will not only test the national athletics team but also be a chance for amateur runners to win a chance to compete in the coming SEA Games.
|Military athletes train for the Tien Phong Newspaper National Marathon Championship in Gia Lai Province. The tournament will be held on March 28. Photo tienphong.vn|
The 62nd edition of the annual event will be held on March 28 in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai.
The race will set a record with the largest number of participants with about 5,000 registered in both professional and amateur categories.
The organisers offer different distances for runners from 5km to a full marathon of 42.195km.
All 18 members of the long-distance group of the national squad will run along with their coaches.
According to coach Nguyen Van Sy, the Tiền Phong Marathon is one of the three biggest races of the year for his athletes.
It is a baseline that coaches will rely on to select key runners for the regional Games in the winter in Hanoi.
His athletes, now running for their cities and provinces, have prepared for the races for months and are expected to secure up to six titles in the total eight categories for professionals.
The men’s 42km will see a competitive race between defending champion Hoang Nguyen Thanh of Binh Phuoc, and his two runners-up Le Van Tuan of Binh Duong and Le Tan Hi of Lam Dong.
Another threat is Trinh Quoc Luong of the Military team, who won the Marathon Hanoi Midnight in mid-December. With his national best time of 2hr 27.21min made in the 2020 season, he has been called up to the national team for the SEA Games.
Another runner is former champion Bui The Anh also of the Military. Anh took part in two SEA Games in 2015 and 2017 and won the Hau Giang Marathon last November.
The women’s competition will see SEA Games bronze medal Pham Thi Hong Le of Binh Dinh try to take her title back from Hoang Thi Ngoc Hoa from Binh Phuoc. Meanwhile, rising star Leo Thi Tinh of Son La who placed third last year is expected to improve her ranking this time. There are only six runners in this category.
In the 21km event, defending champion Nguyen Van Lai of the Military hopes to win his third title.
“It is the first time I will run in Gia Lai. The weather here is better than it was in Ly Son (last year) but the hilly terrain will bring more challenges to runners,” Lai said.
He will face Nguyen Trung Cuong of Ha Tinh who won 3,000m steeplechase silver at the Manila SEA Games and a title in the 10km race for young athletes at this competition in 2019.
On the women’s side, Pham Thi Thuy Hanh of Ha Nam will not attempt to defend her crown, giving opportunities to Nong Thi Huong of Dak Lak and Nguyen Thi Thuy Duong from Dong Nai to shine after their second and third-placed finishes last year.
Other title favourites are Do Quoc Luat of the Military who will aim for his seventh 10km triumph in a row and Nguyen Thi Oanh of Bac Giang for her fifth consecutive victory in the women’s 5km.
“Tien Phong Marathon welcomes new athletes every year. They are talented and unpredicted, so I can't look down on anyone. I have worked hard and will run my best,” said Oanh.
Amateurs' international dreams
This edition will be the first time amateur runners’ results at the Tien Phong Marathon make them eligible to represent Vietnam at international competitions.
“Based on their time in tournaments managed by the Vietnam Athletics Federation, we will pick them as Vietnamese representative in Asian events,” said Nguyen Manh Hung, the federation’s general secretary.
“Running is blooming strongly in Vietnam. Amateur runners’ results are better and approaching those of professional ones. Therefore, we plan to give them opportunities to perform at continental competitions.
“It will be honour and experience that no amateur has had before, carrying the national flag and competing against Asia's leading runners,” Hung said.
The first event could be the Asian Marathon Championship in July in Thailand.
Hung also said the federation will choose the best 200 amateur marathoners, both male and female, to run at the coming SEA Games in Hanoi but they will be ineligible for medals.
“Per the rules, each participating country can send only two men and two women for the maximum 40 for the marathon (to compete for medals). However, in recent Games, there have been around 10 for this event because some countries did not join,” Hung said.
“We plan to have around 200 athletes who may run the same time with official athletes but will not compete for the top three positions. They will receive Finisher Medals from the organisers.”
He added that for the 31st SEA Games, the Tien Phong Marathon and VPBank Hanoi Marathon in October will be used to select athletes.
Nearly 2,000 Vietnamese and foreign people will participate in the Tien Phong Marathon National Championship.
The 61st Tien Phong Marathon is scheduled to be held on Ly Son Island in Quang Ngai Province on March 22.