Hậu Hà Thị: Unbridled Talent from the Hills of Vietnam

No Strava, no intervals, and still no competition - meet the newly crowned XTERRA Asia-Pacific Trail Run Champion who has only been running for two years but remains unbeaten in any race, or even challenged.

Written by
Lisa Jhung
min read
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Thirty-four-year-old Hau Ha Thi only started running in August of 2020, but has yet to be beaten in a race. She’s won the 70K Vietnam Trail Marathon, the 100K Vietnam Mountain Marathon, the 54K Doi Inthanon by UTMB, the 75K Mt. Apo Sky and Vertical Race, the UTA Australia by UTMB 50K, and most recently the 35K XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championships that took place in Southern Taiwan’s Kenting National Park in April of 2023.

There, on the same trails that had all but destroyed numerous international pro triathletes the day before, Ha Thi finished almost 30 minutes ahead of the second-place female and behind just two of the men. She may very well have contended for the overall win, as she’s done in every other race she’s entered throughout her young running career, but stomach issues and cramping forced her to stop multiple times during the race. 

Turns out, Ha Thi only started running because, she says with a giggle through a Zoom call, “I don’t work. I get fat.” A ridiculous notion considering the diminutive runner had only gained a few kilos. She had lost her job in the tourism department of Sapa, Vietnam—a hotspot for tourism—during the pandemic when travel all but ceased around the world. Roughly a month after she started running, she entered and beat all of the competitors, male and female, in a 21K in Sapa. She had only run on a trail once before; her regular runs (for the month she’d been running) consisted of a flat 4K around the lake in Sapa, which she did twice a day to get fit. “When I woke up after the race,” she says, “I could not move my back.” Surprise: she was a little sore. 

"I don't worry about the people around me. I run with my speed and I feel good.”

She's since lost the weight she was upset about gaining, but she’s won everything else.



Natural Talent, Natural Training

Ha Thi grew up in Láo Cai and rode her bike 12K to school and back, every day “sometimes carrying a heavy bag,” she explains. And Sapa, where she lives, is all hills. The only flat terrain is around the lake. So she’s been building strength her whole life. But still, there’s something more within her.

After her first race, she entered a 70K the following January (a big jump from 21K). Another surprise: she sustained an injury—a knee issue—during the race. “I walked from 55k until the finish line,” she says. 

Still, she won, and was roughly 20 minutes off the course record.

Guim Valls Teruel, co-owner of the Vietnam-based  MUDE Sports, sat at his computer scanning the race results after the event. “I checked the times and I was like, ‘Oh, this is a bit crazy,’” he says. “I have some friends who also ran in the race and even before I checked her times, they were telling me how hot it was that day.” He was blown away at how fast Ha Thi ran despite the conditions. 


Shortly after, Teruel reached out to Ha Thi to see if she’d be interested in a sponsorship. “She knew nothing about our brand.” Teruel says he explained that his factory works with recycled polyester fabrics and that he knew she was concerned about the abundance of plastic “everywhere” in Vietnam based on Facebook posts by the runner. Ha Thi told Teruel that she’d think about the offer. “And then she writes me back and she says, ‘Okay, I have no idea what sponsorship is or anything but happy to get some clothes from you.”

“I think that we are far from seeing her full potential yet.”

Teruel became her sponsor, her mentor, and her coach. “She had to learn like, everything,” he says.

“When we started, she had no idea about so many things that for most runners are completely standard and normal. And I'm talking about from how to use a watch to what Strava or a Strava segment is to who Kilian Jornet is to what the UTMB is and what heart rate is. So many things. It’s been a process.” To this, they both smile and laugh a bit—they’re on the Zoom call together. The camaraderie is there, and it’s charming.


“I mean, it's a natural talent, no doubt,” says Teruel. Ha Thi smiles. “But it's amazing when you work with people like this that already know their bodies very well.” 



Through the Eyes of a Child

It’s not that Ha Thi is immature. She is the mother of a 7-year-old son and is 34 years old. But she exudes a sort of innocence about running and racing that is refreshing, and, exciting.

During the 100K Vietnam Mountain Marathon, Teruel tells the story that he was at the finish line and got a call from Ha Thi. She had passed the first-place male runner and told Teruel that she felt bad for passing him. “He doesn’t look very happy,” she told him, and asked, “Should I wait for him?” As anyone would, Teruel advised her not to wait. She won the race. 

Further, when a reporter confirmed that it was her first 100K and asked her if she’d do it again, Teruel says that Ha Thi replied: “Maybe not today, maybe tomorrow.” Ha Thi smiles at the retelling of the story, unphased. “And the journalist was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ You know, he meant in the future.’” But she was serious. She just loves to run.

Ha Thi will take her sincerity and natural talent, now backed by a nutritionist, strength and conditioning coach, additional running coach, and Tereul, to the world stage this spring, summer, and fall. She’s racing the UTMB Australia this May, the 31K Sierre-Zinal race in Switzerland in August, and the 100K CCC race, the “little sister” race of the UTMB, happening the same weekend in September across the Alps in France, Italy, and Switzerland. 

And while the speedster says she would love to race in Maine at the XTERRA World Championship Trail Run in September, the finale event of the XTERRA Trail Run World Cup for which she qualified by crushing the Asia-Pacific Championship race in April, she’s not sure if she’ll be able to make it. “Getting visas is not easy for her as we will be in Europe with her racing all August to early September,” explains Teruel. 

“If we make it, she'll be so excited,” he adds. “She’s never been to the U.S. and it is hard for her to imagine, but she loved the organization when she raced in Taiwan, and she thinks the World Champs would be amazing. If we can't make it, we will try again next year.”

Fingers crossed.

“I think that we are far from seeing her full potential yet,” says Tereul, “because fortunately, or unfortunately, she hasn't been pushed yet in any race.”


“Running makes me happy,” says Ha Thi, smiling as she has throughout the entire call. “I like to see the people. I love the mountains. I run with my speed. I don't worry about the people around me. I run with my speed and I feel good.”














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Author Bio

Lisa Jhung

Boulder, Colorado-based Lisa Jhung is a freelance writer, editor, and author of “Trailhead: The Dirt on All Things Trail Running” (VeloPress, 2015) and “Running That Doesn’t Suck: How to Love Running (Even if You Think You Hate It) (Running Press, 2019). As a journalist, she specializes in writing about outdoor sports and adventure. Her articles have appeared in: Backpacker, Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, Mental Floss, Outside, Runner’s World, and more. Follow her on Instagram at and check out more of her work on her website.

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