There aren’t many destinations I returned to race more than once. It must’ve made a great impression beyond simply “yeah, I like it”. Dalat is a classic example. If the French made it the holiday spot back then due to its cooler climate, pine-scented and highland mountain air, Dalat surely more than wonderful to me – an ultra runner who whinges daily on humid climate she has to train with.

Strolling my way down to the lakeside where the race expo was held through legendary Dalat Palace’s tiered garden, it felt wonderful being back. The race expo though wasn’t as vibrant as last year, I thought.

 Looking for dinner, we walked to the nearby night market and checked out few restaurants. Didn’t found any suitable place that serves carb-worthy food. Instead, I bought some local avocados (they were creamy) and made peace with pasta at the hotel.Then, went to sleep early as we got to catch the 3am bus that will take runners to start line. 

2019 Dalat Ultra saw few elites from Asia Trail Master championship such as John Ellis and Kim Matthews. The 70km course was a reverse to 2018 course i.e. begin with hills and end with relatively flat. We waited for some time in the dark and cold morning before the race kick off at 4am. Ran in dark for few hours before I witnessed the most beautiful sunrise illuminating the magical pine forest. Serene and calm, this lifted my spirit.

As day got brighter, I recognised some of the routes from last year. The stream crossing via wooden bridge, the vast green field, the red dirt gravel track, coffee plantations, and steep hills/downhills. It turned out to be a warm day and I saw few female local runners covering their head – not an uncommon thing to see on the street of Vietnam where people covering themselves from top to toe during hot day. But, what not to love about this trail? Other than the ferocious looking buffaloes, things turned out well, so far.

Reaching tarmac, I recalled a different road than last year. Shuffled down to a valley that brought us to a lovely checkpoint at Lana Estate in the middle of tranquility. A new chalet surrounded with newly planted lavender and rose bushes. I made a toilet stop here, very civilised for us trail runners!

 

Shuffled downhill very carelessly trying to chase Mr E whom somehow managed to cut. I accidentally tripped and fell off – the body landed completely on a downward slope. Not much damage done here but small tear on lower lip as the teeth kissed the gravel and a 20 cents bruise on left waist from impact of bone hitting the ground hard. Thankfully, two local runners pulled me from behind to get me up. ‘Rest for a while’, said one of them. But I continued on.

The final stretch tarmac was encouraging as we saw many runners from other distances converged, not to mention that attention grabbing Rexona posters. At the last long hill that required all my energy, I slowed down and as the result few female runners passed me. No worries, I had no reservation and happy with 11th place (2nd in age group). Overall quicker by 11 minutes than last year!

Another race in Dalat I enjoyed massively and twice charmed by this magical land. Echoing the banner at the race expo, ‘Running is like coffee. I’m much stronger after I’ve finished one’.

 

STAY

Du Parc Hotel Dalat based on yours truly pleasant stay – twice of being the guest here. Nearby race expo about 500m walk.

GETTING THERE

Fly with Vietnam Airlines via Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Get the minibus at the airport upon arrival to go to Dalat city. Ticket can be purchased near the baggage area.

More details: Dalat Ultra Trail and on 2018 race here.

Have you raced in Vietnam? Will you consider trail running in Dalat?

Live to thrive,

SOTG.x

 

Written by: Aida Othman
Photos: Dalat Ultra Trail

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this article was published in OutdoorUAE printed magazine issue #96 May 2019

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