I met British expat David Lloyd by chance during a mountain marathon in Sa Pa in Lào Cai Province last year where he was the race director.
I was surprised to learn that besides his love for sport, the tall, thin and brisk man was also a cyclist, travel journalist, photographer and writer.
I have had the chance to meet him again in Hà Nội. I got to know that he has been living in Việt Nam for seven years and has fallen in love with the country.
“I moved here with my wife in 2011. At that time, we had planned to stay for perhaps a year, but we both soon fell for this country. It was my wife’s idea to come here; she had visited before and was confident that we would both enjoy living here. It’s fair to say seven years later that she was right,” says Lloyd, director of sports for Topas Travel, a Danish and Vietnamese travel company that organises unique sports events in Việt Nam, including the Việt Nam Mountain Marathon.
He particularly loves to live in Hà Nội.
“Hà Nội has its downsides like any major city, but overall I very much enjoy living here. I love the city’s energy and the community feeling in the parks and around the lakes during mornings and sunsets,” he says.
Victory: David Lloyd (right) poses with Trần Duy Quang, winner of the men’s 100km category at the Việt Nam Mountain Marathon last year. Photo courtesy of David Lloyd
Bringing out his sporty side
Hà Nội is also an ideal place for Lloyd to satisfy his passion for sports.
“The capital is a relatively good place for someone who likes to ride and run. There are mountains and trails not far from the city and some great options for weekends away on the bike,” Lloyd says.
According to him, the food is a major positive point of Hà Nội. His favourites include bún riêu cua (Vietnamese field crab noodle soup), phở gà (chicken noodle soup), bún chả (grilled pork vermicelli), and phở cuốn (beef summer roll).
“I am also a huge fan of good cơm bình dân (commoner’s rice) for lunch,” Lloyd says.
Before arriving in Việt Nam, Lloyd’s sports background included mountain running, white water kayaking and cycling, much of which he did in Wales, where he also organised some small charity mountain running events.
He has worked as a travel journalist and photographer for publications including The New York Times and has authored numerous books on Việt Nam and Laos, including the latest Insight Guide. He also co-founded the cycling tour company, Velo Việt Nam, in 2015.
Along with his current position of director of sports for Topas Travel, Lloyd continues to write for the Topas Group.
“I am now busy with many other assignments. I might work on the new issue of a UK-published Việt Nam guidebook focusing just on the North, which will involve minimal travel for research,” Lloyd says.
Besides the Việt Nam Mountain Marathon, which is one of the largest ultra-running events in Asia and a landmark event in Southeast Asia, Lloyd is the founder of many other sports events, such as Việt Nam Jungle Marathon (VJM) and Isla Climbing Challenge.
“I founded VJM last year. My goal was to bring people to an extremely special area where few have either run or visited. We always aim to not only encourage people in Việt Nam to run but also increase domestic sports tourism by attracting overseas participants.
“There were more obvious and easier places to organise a race than Pù Luông Nature Reserve in Thanh Hóa Province, but for me this area is truly magical and, luckily, Topas likes to organise unique events. The trails are some of the best I have seen anywhere worldwide, not just in Việt Nam. It was hugely satisfying to know that those who ran in the event last year felt they had participated in something truly special. If we can create this feeling among our runners, we feel we have done a good job,” says Lloyd.
VJM is an official Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) qualifying race, while UTMB is a race of the Ultra-Trail World Tour. So, the event will provide a great opportunity for runners to gain points to join the UTMB race.
Lloyd also organised the Isla Climbing Challenge last year, which attracted over 100 cyclists and raised some US$13,000 for Newborns Việt Nam, a British charity organisation that works to reduce infant mortality in Việt Nam by providing specialist training to nurses and doctors as well as life-saving equipment.
First cyclist to complete Everesting attempt
In 2014, Lloyd became the first person to record a successful Everesting attempt in Việt Nam. Everesting, which requires a cyclist to climb up to Mt Everest via numerous ascents in the same climb, is the latest craze in endurance sports.
Lloyd completed 8,848m after cycling for 14 hours with nine ascents, covering 195km on Ba Vì Mountain, which lies 50km outside of Hà Nội. It was a brutal climb with some truly punishing gradients.
Lloyd took on the Everesting challenge to raise funds for Newborns Việt Nam.
He has also enjoyed many short one-day races, including races in Đà Nẵng and in Hà Nội’s Hoàn Kiếm Lake.
In terms of cycling overseas, Lloyd has taken part in numerous multi-day stage races, including the Masters Tour of Chiang Mai and Tour of Friendship in Thailand as well as the Tour of Matabunkay in the Phillipines.
Back in the United Kingdom, Lloyd ran the Paddy Buckley Round, which is a tough circuit of 47 mountains.
“Unlike the Việt Nam Mountain Marathon, this course is completely unmarked, so navigation skills are required along with self-support. This challenge is totally different than anything currently undertaken in Việt Nam, but I have plans to create something similar here in future,” Lloyd says.
This will be a busy year for Lloyd with many upcoming events. He and his colleagues will launch another trail run.
“We are in the research phase now,and details will be released soon. We will also likely create a race in Hà Nội,” Lloyd says.
At a personal level, Lloyd plans to complete another Everesting challenge, before possibly attempting a double Everesting later in the year. — VNS
On the road again: David Lloyd leads a tour during Tết (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) holidays in central Việt Nam. Photo courtesy of David Lloyd
Teamwork: David Lloyd (right) with Velo Vietnam co-founder Ashley Carruthers. Photo courtesy of David Lloyd