On October 31, Nhu Quynh and her friends laughed and cheered each other while running at 3 a.m. at the Ho Chi Minh Square in Quang Binh province. In the cold and pouring rain, these runners kept moving forward arduously for the first day of UpRace – the annual online running event to raise funds for the community.
"I have to summon all of my strength to get out of bed in a raining and freezing weather like this, but heading out the street is even more of a miracle," Quynh said. The big motivation that got her on the road was that, for every kilometer of running recorded on the UpRace app, VNG and other business sponsors would donate at least 1,000 VND to the social organizations.
This year, UpRace partners with four social organizations, including Newborns Vietnam to reduce infant mortality, Green Việt on the program "Million trees in cities", Operation Smile Vietnam to bring smiles to children born with cleft palate, and Saigon Children’s Charity to help children orphaned by COVID-19 through the project "You are not alone."
Unlike regular running tournaments, UpRace lasts 22 days (October 31 - November 21), attracting even those with zero-running experience to participate. The goal of this program is to have one million runners by 2023, crossing Vietnam off the list of "top countries with the highest physical inactivity" worldwide.
Fill your energy tank in the "new normal"
In October, when Ho Chi Minh city reopened after a long lockdown, everyone "crept" into the street, trying to get themselves familiar with the "new normal" life. However, the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic with past trauma and potential dangers is still hovering over our heads.
Not only are our physical health and livelihood concerning, but our mental health also needs a lot of care. In that context, UpRace is bringing up a new breath of life, connecting the community back to sports and healthy activities, connecting people with people, and especially, connecting us with social organizations that seem to be forgotten when all resources are focused on pandemic prevention.
Unlike other UpRace members in the Central region of Vietnam, Hoang Anh – an office worker who was infected with COVID-19 in early November – has been jogging indoors despite many difficulties.
“Because I was F0, I just ran in my 10-meter-long tiny house. My one-day indoor running record is 42 km on November 14th,” she revealed. After 13 days of indoor running, Hoang Anh completed 400 km to contribute to UpRace.
At Sala urban area in District 2, Ho Chi Minh City, you can find small groups of citizens running with their masks, passing each other while asking, "How many km?" UpRace is like a meaningful "excuse" to pull people out of their houses, bring them back to sports and exercise, thereby gradually re-energizing the whole community after a long period of gloom.
The number of registered participants of UpRace 2021 (238,000) has doubled, compared to last year (115,000). The total running distance across 63 provinces is 5,113,053 km – a record number in four years of the event.
Even the UpRace team was surprised when the goal of 5 million km was accomplished at the very last minute. Thus, UpRace 2021 successfully raised more than 5.1 billion VND to four social organizations.
According to Suzanna Elaine Lubran - Executive Director of Newborns Vietnam, “This year's UpRace is like a ray of light reviving our spirits after the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, inspiring and motivating us to help more people".
Throughout UpRace's 4-year journey, with the abundance of positive energy and great inspiration, nothing can stop the diligent runners from making extraordinary things happen. The 164.35 km run in 31.5 hours of Mr. Tran Van Quynh (42 years old, Ha Tinh Runners team) is an example. Perseverance, efforts, and individual engagement have made UpRace the most inspiring and impactful event since the beginning of 2021.
New smiles, green sprouts, and new lives on every running footprint
The footsteps of every UpRacer go beyond the definition of mere physical activity, as every kilometer is converted into a source of support for social organizations. After four seasons of UpRace from 2018 to 2021, more than 11 million km has been recorded, and nearly 20 billion VND has been donated, opening a new door for many lives that the runners themselves have never met.
Support children orphaned by COVID with Saigon Children’s Charity
P. is studying in grade 3 at a school specialized for deaf children. He is deaf and can't do normal activities like going to school by himself. His father, the main breadwinner of the family, passed away due to COVID-19. His mother is suffering from thyroid cancer, so she can only earn very little by selling soft drinks on the house’s front.
P. will be one of about 200 children orphaned by the pandemic to be helped by Saigon Children's "You are not alone" campaign. Every footstep of UpRacers makes a significant contribution to the campaign, providing P. and many other orphaned children a great aid to get through this challenging time.
“Recently, with the number of applications for support increasing rapidly, the donation from UpRace comes at this time as a timely and extremely valuable support for children who have lost their loved ones to COVID-19,” said Vuong Ngoc Vy Van – Fundraising Manager of Saigon Children's Charity.
“Given the cost of more than 11 million VND for a typical case of "You are not alone", the donation of nearly 1 billion VND from UpRace will be equivalent to the help for about 90 disadvantaged children orphaned by COVID-19.”
Save lives with Newborns Vietnam
In 2017, Newborns Vietnam started working with the National Children's Hospital (Hanoi), which receives about 5,000 children from 28 provinces each year. After 3 years of training under the British program, the infant mortality rate has decreased by 25% and the number of children dying from hospital infections has decreased by 15%. In 2019, with the donation raised by UpRace, Newborns Vietnam expanded its reach to 8 lower-level hospitals in Hanoi, providing training programs and basic life-saving equipment.
Currently, Newborns Vietnam is expanding its support to hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City and three provinces in the North-West, where the neonatal mortality rate is three times higher than that in Ho Chi Minh City. With the support from UpRace, Newborns Vietnam can provide basic equipment such as first aid kits in the delivery room to help babies breathe at birth, helping hundreds of thousands of babies every year. Each UpRacer’s footsteps will contribute towards saving hundreds of newborns and giving hope to many parents to welcome home their healthy baby.
Give away new smiles with Operation Smile Vietnam
UpRace 2021 not only brought a "new normal" smile to the runners but also brought a full smile to the children with cleft lips and cleft palates. The contribution from UpRace to Operation Smile Vietnam enabled doctors to perform operations on 120 children. In 2020, 109 healthy smiles were given away.
"As soon as the wound gets better, the smile will heal. There will be no more choking, crying, and parents won’t have to worry about the integration of their children in the future," said Mr. Nguyen Viet Phuong, chief representative of Operation Smile in Vietnam.
Plant trees with Green Viet
Aside from its contribution in the medical field, UpRace is continuing to accompany Green Viet in the long-term fight to protect the environment. UpRace 2020 already helped Green Viet plant more than 5,000 trees in Da Nang and Hanoi, built an ecological garden for disabled children, implemented a conservation program for 1,300 red-shanked doucs, and organized 10 green education activities for more than 1,000 people in Da Nang. With the accomplishment of UpRace 2021, 10,000 more trees will be planted, providing fresh air for Vietnamese cities.
The pandemic can't stop us from gaining momentum as life is still in motion. The journey of UpRace will keep continuing, making more impacts on the community. No one's name will be called as a champion, but the efforts of each person in UpRace's community will always remain on the babies’ smiles, in the newborns’ first cry, on the new journey of children orphaned by the pandemic, and on each green sprout growing in Vietnam.
Translated by Bich Tram