One of our readers reached out khổng lồ us on Facebook suggesting that we interview his friend, Thanh Vu (thanks Steve Hoang!). A quick Google tìm kiếm revealed nothing too insightful about her. All of the existing media was in Vietnamese & about how she became the first Vietnamese woman to become an ultramarathoner.

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We quickly learned that Thanh had built up an inspiring story of moving from the corporate world lớn pursue her passion of setting & crushing a seemingly impossible stretch goal. Her goal wasn’t just any walk in the park: it was the 1000 kilometer 4 Deserts Race Series that took her around the globe for an entire year.

We met with her at our new coffe to learn about her background, why she was motivated to complete the 4 Deserts Race Series, & what she plans to bởi next.

Hành trình 1000km bên trên sa mạc trong những năm 2016

Posted by Thanh Vu – cô bé chạy vòng quanh thế giới on Thursday, 21 January 2016

Let’s start from the top. Where did you grow up, study, and work before moving on to lớn pursue your goal of completing the 4 Deserts Race Series?

I was born và raised in Hanoi, later moving to study in Singapore, Canada, và the UK.

I networked a ton. Hustling my way through the fresh graduate competition to find my dream job. I wanted to travel and explore the world. Ultimately I landed in Singapore after graduating from university khổng lồ work for Bloomberg. I was on the financial products team for two years, then moved over lớn the much-coveted traveling sales team. It was the dream job. I was hopping from one country to the next every week. I was based in Singapore but covered clients regionally. But for some reason it got old after a few months. I felt defeated. I had worked so hard for it, but just after a few months I wanted out. I kept telling myself that I would get used to it. That this is what I wanted.

That’s when I found out about the 4 Desert Race Series.

How did you convince yourself khổng lồ quit your dream job for a new experience?

It took a long time to convince myself to do something else. I’ve never been a fitness aficionado. I’ve always enjoyed running because it’s therapeutic, but I didn’t go to lớn the gym a lot before 2016. I don’t have a natural knack for sport. With that said, I don’t want to be known as an ultramarathoner, because it’s not my profession.

For me, discovering the 4 Deserts Race Series inspired me khổng lồ overcome challenges, set enormous goals, & experience the thrill of reaching a personal goal. It was about the whole journey, rather than just the physical stress & training that it required.


What is the 4 Deserts Race Series exactly?

The 4 Deserts Race Series is held over one calendar year. The concept of the challenge is to overcome four of the toughest environments in the world: the hottest, windiest, coldest, & driest. The four deserts series are the Sahara (hottest, but due lớn political instability in the Middle East it was moved to the Namib, the home to the world’s tallest dunes), the Gobi (windiest), the Atacama in Chile (driest), & the Antarctica (coldest). Every desert has its own challenge và covers 250 kilometers of ground. It takes place over six stages và seven days. You run a marathon a day & on the longest day, the distance doubles lớn 70-80 kilometers.

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What was it lượt thích training for the 4 Deserts Race Series?

You have to put your toàn thân under constant stress & trauma. Trekking is a good activity, it’s ideal khổng lồ hit a benchmark of 40 kilometers a day lớn build the endurance that you need. Start slow & build up. Training for the series taught me a lot about perseverance, empowerment, & how lớn face adversity.

I traveled lớn a number of places lớn train. Northern India, Hong Kong, Toronto, Sapa. Training in Sapa actually gave me the idea of moving back to lớn Vietnam. I noticed more people than I remembered running two or three kilometers around the lake. Now there are marathons every other month. Momentum is picking up. I’m seeing a lot of people realize the benefits of exercising, both physically and mentally.


How can we change the perception of thể thao in Vietnam?

Many of the questions I get from friends & family are: Why are you trying to punish yourself? Money can be used in other ways, why on this?

Right now the perception of thể thao in Vietnam is that it’s a waste of time và money. The vision of most Vietnamese parents is all about studying for their kids. Outside of career or professional work, sport can help bring more to the table for individual growth. It can demonstrate characteristics of drive và ambition. It’s not just about grades và test scores. The corporate world of Vietnam doesn’t have enough jobs for all of the rising middle-class of Vietnam. There are other ways to lớn create value. Sport, even as just a part-time experience, is one way. But there are countless other ways such as through art, design, fashion, writing.

After crossing four of the world’s harshest deserts, what vày you want to bởi next?

I’d lượt thích to bring the extreme racing experience khổng lồ Vietnam. It won’t involve running across insane distances, it’s not for everyone. It’ll involve some sort of physical fitness. The goal is to help mould people into becoming more dynamic và confident in life. Vietnam is hitting its stride. It’s time someone shared with the young Vietnamese about how to think & act differently. There’s an opening in the new Vietnam today lớn think outside of the box.


Is the new Vietnam a good place khổng lồ motivate, inspire, and train future athletes? Overall, is the new Vietnam an environment that can inspire people?

Vietnamese athletes in taekwondo và shooting have done some amazing work to lớn prove that Vietnam can win medals at the Olympics. They inspire & bring hope to the next generations of Vietnamese athletes in international competitions. But in day-to-day life, people still overlook the value of fitness and sport. In my experience, when people hear my stories, they are more impressed that I quit my job at Bloomberg than running across four deserts.

Overall, I think the new Vietnam is a great environment for young twenty-somethings. I’d love khổng lồ inspire the new generation to lớn defy the fear of not having a path cài đặt and to look at all the possibilities with a sense of ambition. The learning curves can be steep và the road can be long, but just lượt thích any endurance race, as long as you don’t stop, you will find a way khổng lồ reach your goal.


What’s your most memorable sporting experience so far?

My most memorable experience was in the Atacama Desert in Chile in 2015. In our trekking group was a 60 year old man from Hong Kong with one leg prosthetic leg. If you know anything about the Atacama Desert, you’ll know that it’s one of the driest & highest altitude deserts in the world. Oxygen is thin & the terrain is diverse: dirt, stones, sand, & river crossings. There’s a lot of up & down hills to lớn cross. Everyone was having a hard time crossing this never-ending slope with the peak heat above us in the middle of the day.

I remembered that at the start the man with the prosthetic leg was not far behind me, but at this point I thought I had left him behind in the dust. When I turned around, there he was. With his trekking poles, slamming into the ground. Razor focused. He didn’t even see me when he passed me. His determination & power was contagious. I have two healthy legs, surely I can finish this too. I feel lucky khổng lồ witness his strength in person.

Who should we speak with next?

Tue Le. She’s a super globetrotter by any standards. She worked in corporate at P&G for a long time at a high-level. She speaks eight or nine languages. Her family immigrated khổng lồ the United States. She grew up always curious about her heritage. While her parents wouldn’t go back, she decided to lớn go toward Asia. She’s worked in Japan, Singapore, & visited Vietnam soon after. She fell in love with the country. She’s currently working as the regional director for Remote Year in Asia. She wants khổng lồ put Ho đưa ra Minh city on the map as one the program cities, Hanoi is included on the circuit at the moment. She’s more Vietnamese than I am now!