With registration now open for fitness events company Pulse Active’s second ‘Conquer the Bridge’ half-marathon, 10k and 5k events in January, Simon Stanley swaps rubber for asphalt and hunts down the best outdoor training routes in the city. Photos by Vinh Dao.
Treadmills are boring. Try as they might, the people at the V music channel simply can’t pump out enough dizzying K-Pop energy to counter the lure of the stop button and an early shower. Unfortunately, for many, the idea of running outside is a non-starter. Saigon’s streets are often no place for pedestrians, let alone runners. But the sun is out, the sky is blue and some excellent ‘real-world’ running routes are out there if you know where to look.
District 2, Thao Dien, Nguyen Van Huong, Xuan Thuy
With wide roads, cool riverside breezes and plenty of distractions to keep your mind busy, the Thao Dien loop beats a treadmill any day. Aside from the bustling business hubs at either end of Xuan Thuy, the entire route can be relatively calm and quiet if you hit it at the right time of day – just avoid the school-run rush hours. If you’re still building up to a 5k, use the buildings, trees and shops as waypoints and aim to get a little further each time you’re out. It’s enough to get used to being on your feet even if you’re not running the whole way.
Parking: An Phu Supermarket.
District 7, Crescent Mall, Ton Dat Tien
The pavements can be a little hit and miss, but the wide, deserted avenues and ample street lighting make for an extremely safe run at any time of day. This 5k loop takes in the best the area has to offer, from the ultra-modern, traffic-free waterside frontage of Ton Dat Tien, to the lush greenery of Riverside Park. This corner of Saigon is just a few luxury yachts away from the South of France. Look out for the drink sellers opposite the Crescent Mall parking garage – you’ll need them!
Parking: Crescent Mall basement garage.
Districts 1, 3, Binh Thanh, Phu Nhuan and Tan Binh. Nhieu Loc – Thi Nghi Canal
The USD $200m redevelopment of the Nhieu Loc – Thi Nghi Canal has turned what was once a sewerage-clogged waterway into an eight kilometre strip of urban tranquility, meandering all the way from Saigon Zoo to the airport (almost). Lined with well-kept gardens, shady trees and long stretches of smooth, uninterrupted pathways, it’s a runner’s paradise that almost never was – there was talk of filling it in and running a road over the top. With minimal road-crossings required it’s also extremely safe. This loop runs between the Hai Ba Trung and Bui Huu Nghia bridges, but there’s really nothing stopping you from hotfooting it all the way to Tan Son Nhat.
Parking: Various lots along Hoang Sa and Truong Sa.
District 1, Tao Dan Park, Nguyen Du, Cach Mang Thang Tam and NTMK
Sitting in the extended back yard of the Reunification Palace, Tao Dan is the quintessential Saigon park. Arrive before 8am and you’ll be treated to such a carnival of sights and sounds you may well forget you’re actually running. Tai chi classes twirling fans in the early morning mist, squads of fitness fanatics comparing muscles, and picture-perfect gardens filled with song from the nearby bird cafe. While certain areas can become a little crowded, there’s plenty of room here for everybody. This short loop is great for those looking to build up their distances one lap at a time. Hop over Truong Dinh for a cool-down walk and a spot of culture in the east section of the park.
Parking: Various lots along Cach Mang Thang Tam.
District 10, Le Thi Rieng Park, Cach Mang Thang Tam (opposite number 600)
Rustling woodlands, wind swept boating lakes and picturesque wooden bridges are among the rewards for a two-wheeled excursion to District 10. Boasting wide, smooth paths with plenty of shade, Le Thi Rieng is an understandably popular spot for the local community. There’s also a sizeable funfair along the east boundary. But hit it just right, however, and you may have the place all to yourself. Kitsch statues pop out from the shrubbery, dusty petanque courts sit beneath towering poplar trees and winding pathways tempt visitors into a seemingly untamed wilderness.
Parking: Main entrance.
Top Five Tips for Running In Saigon
• Carry a rehydration solution or sports drink (or money to buy one).
• Take it slowly. Adapting to the heat takes time.
• Running alone? Best to carry your health insurance details, just in case.
• When running on roads, run against the direction of the traffic.
• Join a club. RunClub.vn welcomes beginners and meets weekly in Districts 1 and 7.
*Registration for the 21k, 10k and 5k events is open now, with early-bird discounts available until 15 November. Visit www.HCMCRun.com for more information.