Don’t sit on the sidelines, come on out and start running
Feddy Pham was getting weird looks on the canal. He was trying out something he’d picked up overseas, but his neighbors back home in Ho Chi Minh City didn’t know what to make of it – Feddy was just running. Always athletic, the simplicity of running for its own sake appealed to Feddy when he first encountered it while studying in Singapore, but more than that it was the sense of community he saw in the daily runners that he wanted to bring back to Saigon.
“I started with my family first. My mom, dad, and little brother had no idea about running, so I persuaded them to start running with me and little by little I got my whole family running,” he says. From there he went online and started rallying like- minded people together to form a running club. It started out small. “We have a photo of eight members at the RMIT fun run in 2013.” That was the Sunday Running Club’s (SRC) first event and the entirety of the club at the time. The group’s name is misleading as they have runs Wednesday nights in Hoa Lu Stadium, Friday nights on Nguyen Hue Street, along with various locations around the city on Sunday mornings.
Today, they have over 200 active members who take part in events and almost ten times that follow the group’s activity on Facebook. But through their rapid growth, Feddy and the club have never lost sight of their original goal of building a community. The group’s initials also stand for Sharing, Responsibility and Connection, which have guided them wherever SRC meets. First-timers are always welcomed and new routes are scouted out by runners on their own time. Because its members share the work needed to keep the increasingly large organization active, the SRC is able to remain dynamic, and there’s no shortage of important work to be done. As it aspires to be a socially responsible group, they are always looking for new ways to support the community. They’ve given blood and for the past two Christmases, members has donned Santa hats and run around the city giving out presents to underprivileged children. Now they’re planning more runs near the university village in Thu Duc to promote a healthy lifestyle among the students there. And even more ambitious is their plan to represent Vietnam internationally as a fit nation by hosting an event that will draw runners from all over Asia.
Thanh, a senior member of SRC, only started running when he was 40 and diagnosed with diabetes. The club offered him a way back to health and through it became friends with the likes of Son, who originally just saw running as a way to train for his first sport of badminton, but now helps to lead the SRC and deeply respects running for its own merits.
Feddy chalks up the group’s success to the nature of running. “There’s no license to earn, no membership. You just run,” he says. But Feddy and the SRC have remained as relentlessly focused on their core values as they have on running itself. And they’re always looking for new ways to challenge themselves, on and off the track.