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Monday Inspiration: Huy Mai


Posted by Huy M under Ultrarunning on 8 July 2012 at 11:00 PM

Huy M is taking on the Vietnam End-to-End Run starting on the 15th November 2012. The Challenge starts in Ca Mau (the most southern town) and finishing in Ha Giang (the most northern town) with 2800km separating them. Along with fellow ultra runner Pat Farmer, Huy will run an average of 85km per day and aims to finish within 33 days. We caught up with him to find out more:

Taking on the Challenge to run the length of Vietnam is mental! What was it that made you decide to do it?

Has anyone experienced the feeling of itching to do something but don’t know what to do or wanting to make a difference but don’t know how? That was the feeling I had when I graduated from university in 2011. I was looking for something but did not know what I was looking for; it was frustrating! 

Then one day, I came across an article about an ultra marathon runner running the length of New Zealand for charity. It clicked! It was exactly the challenge I was looking for. I said to myself: “I can run the length of Vietnam!” The problems were I had no experience in long distance running and - like any other recent graduate – I was broke. The only thing I had was a dream. And I knew one thing for sure, if I put my head in the right place, I can train my body to do anything. 

How did you end up teaming up with Ultra Running legend Pat Farmer?

Hearing you call Pat Farmer a Running legend makes me feel so humble when he suggested that he would like to run the length of Vietnam with me. 

A friend suggested me contact Pat Farmer to ask for advice on how to organize the run in Vietnam. Pat Farmer’s latest feat was to run from the North Pole to the South Pole, a grueling 22,000 km in 10 months. I thought to myself: “who is this guy!” 

I went to Sydney to meet with Pat before my very first test of character: The North Face 100 Australia 2012 in the Blue Mountains in Sydney. You have to understand it was my 1st race. Pat was friendly but firm: “what about you finish the race and we will talk about the run in Vietnam!”

So I went and did the race, and it was hard! The only thing that kept me running was my dream run the length of Vietnam; if I cannot finish 100km, who would believe me to be able to run 2800km? I wouldn’t. Every time my body screamed: “Stop! Stop! Stop doing this to me!” I just kept telling it to shut up and kept going until I finish the race in 16 hours. The finish line was the sweetest thing I had ever experienced!

About a month after I informed Pat that I had finished the race, Pat contacted me suggested instead of helping me obtain enough sponsorship for the run, he would like to run the length of Vietnam with me. 

“An Australian and a Vietnamese works together for the good of humanity.” How beautiful is that!

You’re fundraising for an educational charity in Vietnam, what are your fundraising targets and what projects are you hoping to aid?

Pat Farmer and I will be raising money for The Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation and the Australian Red Cross. The Children’s Foundation is run by Australian Michael Brosowski in Hanoi, whose aim is break the poverty cycle by offering education, training and job opportunity to Vietnam’s needy children. 

The Red Cross, as we all know, has carried out countless humanitarian projects around the world. They were the first people to be onsite when the deadliest and most destructive Hurricane Katrina hit the United States in 2005. I trust that The Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation and The Australian Red Cross will find the best use for the funds that Pat Farmer and I will raise.

I wish to raise for:

The Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation – $50,000

The Australian Red Cross – $50,000

However, I am grateful for whatever amount I will raise from the run.

Do you have a fundraising page where people can donate to your charity?

A website for the Run is expected to be launch by the end of July 2012. There will be functions on the website where people can donate directly to the charities involved with 100% of donations going towards the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation and The Australian Red Cross. 

At the moment, I use Vietnam End-to-End Run 2012 Facebook page and my personal Facebook page to keep everyone updated on the progress of the project. 

How are your training for the event – you totally blew the girls out the water when you joined the Girls vs Boys Running Challenge, how many long runs are you doing a week?

I have to say, this interview is a direct result of the mileage I posted on that challenge. To the ladies, if I saw someone posting that kind of kilometers 10 months ago, I would have gone mental! The Challenges between the Girls and Boys on Tribesports are great. They are very competitive in a friendly environment and supportive at the same time I must say!

Currently I average 34 km a day, running everyday, no days off. I will continue to log this mileage consistently until the end of July. At the moment, I run five and a half marathons a week.

In August, I will run a full marathon (42 km) a day, 7 days a week, no days off. The point is to train my body to move even when I am tired. 

Also, Pat Farmer and I do an 80-kilometer run once a month until I head to Vietnam in October this year to have everything in place for the 15th November 2012 start of the Vietnam End-to-End Run.

(OK the picture is not at all relevant but come on ladies, not bad eh?!)

The Vietnam Run will be a continuous day on day challenge, how are you preparing for that?

No amount of training is going to be sufficient for what I will encounter on the Run. There will be ups and downs like a roller coaster when I average 85 km a day. Running consistently everyday at the moment teaches me to not over-do when I am on the ups, and to push through when I am on the downs. The rest is Will Power at work; it is the internal drive that motivated me to start this whole project on the first day. At the end of the day, like everyone else, I am human, I have 2 legs, I do have emotions and feelings, I do get grumpy when I am tired and hungry, and I do have to put one foot in front of the other to move forward.

I have sealed all the possible ways to withdraw so there is no going back for me. I quit my job, budget every penny I have saved on the run, tell the world I am going to finish the run in Vietnam. Frankly speaking, if I don’t finish this run, I’m doomed haha. I have committed myself 100%.

How is this challenge affecting your other sports?

I cycle occasionally. It’s nice to be on the bike. I stopped kickboxing all together last year. At the moment, my sport and my job are to run and organize the run in Vietnam.

You’ve said that Ultra Running is 10% fitness and 90% mental strength, what makes you #KeepRunning?

With The North Face 100 Australia 2012, I went in the race both had nothing to lose and had so much to lose. I had nothing to lose because nobody knew who I was, I had no records doing any races before so if I had not finished the race, It would not have had mattered to anyone. However, I would have lost my dream. My dream is so important to me; it drives me forwards, it gives me something to look forward to, it motivates me to hit the alarm at 4AM everyday, and it keeps me running even when I am in pain. TNF100 2012 was a test of character I had to pass to prove I could run the length of Vietnam. Look at Las Vegas, a city in the middle of a desert; it is a manifestation of a dream comes true. If there are no dreams, there is nothing.

Also, FEAR is both an incredible source of motivation and at the same time, such a debilitating and crippling force. People are afraid to try because if they fail, there are only them to blame. However failure is a dominant part of the equation. At least when I try, I have a chance to succeed, otherwise nothing at all. The only thing I can do is to prepare myself and the organization for the run the best I possibly can.

I have committed everything I have got to the run. I have quit my job, spent every penny I have saved on the run, informed everyone I know, and talked to the media about the run in Vietnam. I have even had an article about me running the length of Vietnam printed on the local newspaper. I have intentionally eliminated all my possibilities to withdraw. There is no going back for me. I have got a reputation that if I say I will do something, I am going to do it no matter what the cost is. I have no intention to lose that reputation, thus the only way out for me is to make this whole run thing happen and then finish it.