Thriving in the Age of Disruption

Winning One of the World’s Toughest Triathlons, Swiss Ultra Deca Ultratriathlon World Championship 2022: Ms Thanh Vu (Vietnam)

September 13, 2022 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra & Ms. Thanh Vu Season 1 Episode 21
Thriving in the Age of Disruption
Winning One of the World’s Toughest Triathlons, Swiss Ultra Deca Ultratriathlon World Championship 2022: Ms Thanh Vu (Vietnam)
Show Notes Transcript

First she crosses four of the world’s harshest deserts. Then she wins one of the world's toughest sports tournaments.

Meet Ms. Thanh Vu, Vietnam’s first woman ultra-marathoner. And newly-crowned World Champion of the Swiss Ultra Deca Ultratriathlon 2022 in Switzerland.

Join Dr. Ramesh as she chats with Thanh to understand what motivates her to overcome incredible athletic challenges, set impossible goals, and experience the thrill of reaching her dreams.

Share Thanh's journey with Dr. Ramesh and gain inspiration too - To strive, to thrive and to become the best version of ourselves.

To learn more about the entrepreneurial mindset with Dr. Ramesh, get your copy of The Big Jump into Entrepreneurship 2.0 on or

Host: Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra, Author, Podcast Host and Founder of Talent Leadership Crucible

Guest Speaker: Ms. Thanh Vu,  Ultra Triathlete; Number 1 Brand Ambassador, Tan Hiep Phat (THP)

#EntrepreneurialMindset #Vietnam #Hanoi #Success #Triathlon #UltraMarathon #ExtremeSports #EliteAthlete #ThanhVu #Dr.RameshRamachandra #TheBigJumpintoEntrepreneurship2.0 #CrisisReadyMindset #TalentLeadershipCrucible #Thriving #AgeofDisruption #TanHiepPhat #SwissUltra2022 #DecaUltraTriathlon #WorldChampion #lifeofadventure

To learn more about the entrepreneurial mindset with Dr. Ramesh, get your copy of The Big Jump into Entrepreneurship 2.0 on or

Host: Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra, Author, Podcast Host and Founder of Talent Leadership Crucible

Guest Speaker: Ms. Thanh Vu,  Ultramarathoner; Number 1 Brand Ambassador, Tan Hiep Phat (THP)

#EntrepreneurialMindset #Vietnam #Hanoi #Success #Triathlon #UltraMarathon #ExtremeSports #EliteAthlete #ThanhVu #Dr.RameshRamachandra #TheBigJumpintoEntrepreneurship2.0 #CrisisReadyMindset #TalentLeadershipCrucible #Thriving #AgeofDisruption #TanHiepPhat #SwissUltra2022 #DecaUltraTriathlon #WorldChampion #lifeofadventure

Ho Lai Yun  00:00

Hello and welcome to Thriving in the Age of Disruption. Today Dr. Ramesh chats with the unstoppable Vietnamese elite athlete Ms. Thanh Vu, who has just won the toughest race on the planet to become World Champion in the Swiss Ultra Triathlon held in Switzerland.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  00:17

Congratulations, Thanh, on your outstanding recent win of the Swiss Ultra Triathlon 2022, which took place from the 14th to the 29th of August. This race was in Deca Continuous, which is 10 times the usual triathlon long distance. To put it into perspective for our listeners. It consisted of first Thanh swimming 38 kilometres, then cycling 1,800 kilometres, and finally running 10 marathons, which equals 422 kilometres. Wow, wow, wow! Thanh, how does it feel? 

Ms. Thanh Vu  00:56

To be able to win the women's category at the Deca Ultra Triathlon World Championship is definitely a dream come true. I hope that from this experience, I'll encourage more people, especially women to tackle their own impossible dreams to really allow themselves to push the limit, to break the boundaries, and to be the best version of ourselves. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  01:20

Thank you for agreeing to be a Changemaker guest speaker in our podcast series Thriving in the Age of Disruption. I'm really excited to have you on board because you have an unusual passion. And that is extreme sports. And I wanted to kick off the discussion with having you introduce yourself. And you could do that by sharing about yourself, your life, and what you're doing.

Ms. Thanh Vu  01:41

Sure, thank you so much for having me. It's always really fun to talk to people about what I do. It certainly is different. But I hope that after some of my sharing, people may realise that it's actually not all that different from the goals and dreams that they have in their own personal community or their own personal life. The best way to introduce myself is a little bit of my background and things that I do that I believe create meaning for my life and values for others. I am someone who loves challenges. And that kind of goes in all different aspects of my life, whether it was my education, or it's my life choices, or it is things that I do, again, to make my life meaningful.

Ms. Thanh Vu  02:34

So I am an ultra-runner, what that means is that I participate in endurance races that go over really long distances, long period of time. And usually in very harsh and unique locations. They can be in deserts, or in the mountains, or in very unique areas of the world. What 'Ultra' means in endurance sport, is that the standard distance for a marathon is usually a little bit over 42 kilometres, anything longer than that is considered an ultra-race. So it can go from anything between 50 kilometres to 100 to 200, 300, even 1000. So the races that I've done in the past, a lot of them are multi-stages, they would span across 250 kilometres, you have to run on average, a marathon a day, for the first four days. On day five or day six, you may have to double the distance. A lot of the endurance challenges, a lot of people think that you have to be exceptional in terms of physical ability. The interesting fact is that it doesn't. I've seen many people with different walks of life, who have completed the challenge, and really proved that nothing is impossible. I've seen people who have lost their sight complete the desert races. I've seen people who are amputees who have overcome sand dunes, river crossings, all of the crazy environmental challenges that you face in these kinds of races to really inspire the communities around them. You know, you see also a variety of age groups as well. So if you think like the people who participated in these things are probably very young, very fit, and very able. But in fact, the most common age group is middle age and above.

Ms. Thanh Vu  04:41

So people were in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and even 70s They are incredibly resilient. A lot of times, young people, there's a certain pitfall with youthful exuberance. One of the things that attract me to these races is also the patience that it has taught me. Young people tend to go out too quickly, too fast, and burn out before the middle of the race. But people with age, people who are experienced, I think they're very patient. They understand the long-term goals. They pace themselves and they manage the circumstances around them really well. And I think a lot of the lessons the ultra-endurance athlete can take from these experience to apply back in there and normal daily life are incredibly valuable. And that's why you see all sorts of different occupations in the field as well, different vocations, you have CEOs, you have executives, doctors, architects, students, sometimes you have housewives, all sorts of different people. So there's really no limitation, it is really the experience that people come to prove that there's no limitation once you set your mind to do something.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  06:09

Thank you so much for giving us a detailed breakdown of the kinds of people who actually participate in an ultra-endurance race. Thanh, this is something new to me, I've known you for several years now. But I didn't know the details of how you go about doing the race and the kinds of people who participate. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  06:30

It sounds very extreme. On the other hand, it is actually very similar to an entrepreneurial mindset. Because when someone has an entrepreneurial mindset, you're looking at problems, trying to figure out how to be resourceful to create value from whatever that you're up to, as well as to manage the risk. And I'm sure along the way, as you pursued this passion, there must have been some high moments and low moments. If you can share what were those dangerous moments, that'd be great.

Ms. Thanh Vu  07:00

I call them the defining moments. There will be highs and lows in running similar to running a business or in your own personal life as well. There are moments when you are just so happy, so elated, you think you can conquer anything in the world, and then the next thing you know, you're afraid for your life, you are thinking, "Do I have enough water? Am I too slow? Can I get to the next checkpoint to get more water income?" There are those highs and lows that you go through in running, it's almost like a miniature version of life, right. And what happens during those moments really tells you a lot about yourself. And as what I love. I gained so much from those experiences that I can then take them with me in my normal daily life. I understand what makes me, me when everything else seems to be going against you, the universe is not helping you out, just against all odds, what you think at that moment, what you decide at that moment, really defines who you are. Because only you have the ability to make that judgment call, whether you should or can continue. And I think a lot of entrepreneurs face that on a daily basis. Sometimes it's not always the smartest decision to keep going. There are races that I haven't finished. And they are the races I remember the most because I learned so much. And not being defeated by those moments. I don't consider them failures, I consider them just one chapter of the book like I'm gonna come back, I'm gonna learn the lessons that I've gained from that experience. You see that in your daily life too. There will be moments in life where you really have to be true to yourself and make difficult decisions like whether to continue or whether to pursue something. You are clear, nobody can tell you, "Oh, you're hurt, or you're too tired, you shouldn't go on." There will be people telling you that before the race. There'll be people telling you that now is not the time to start a new business. You just have a baby or it's not a great time, there's a recession, there's Covid etc. But only you know what you can do. And I love that thing. Whether you think you can or you can't, you're right. It's so true. I love those moments. It's just so telling. And it's great training. I do these races every year to train myself in a way, trying to be the better version of myself every year.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  09:55

How do you actually train for the race, like what did you do? 

Ms. Thanh Vu  09:59

I got that question a lot, there are many different ways to train for these races, right. And my way is certainly not the only way. But it has come from a lot of research and asking for advice from the previous participant. First of all, it is to constantly adapt. The environment out there changes a lot. The races I've done are in deserts that are cold, that are hot, dry at altitude. So you have to constantly be disciplined with yourself. You can't just say, "Oh, I'm feeling thirsty. But just until the next checkpoint, I'll drink something." No, you have to manage yourself, you have to be disciplined, "I'm so tired, reaching into my bag, or turning my head to drink from my hydration pack is really tiring right now." But you have to be really disciplined with yourself and you do it. Or in certain heat, it gets so bad that you don't feel like eating anymore, you lose your appetite. But even if you don't feel like eating, you must find ways to replenish the calories and energy that you're expanding. Discipline is actually a very key. Adaptation can't happen without discipline, for sure. 

Ms. Thanh Vu  11:26

The second thing is getting your body used to the extended exertion. So you can train for it by going on multi-day treks. Those are great ways to get your body to get used to constantly covering really long distance every day. In my experience, I started with doing a back-to-back long run, I would do maybe like 20k-25k kilometres on Saturday. And then on Sunday, I would do something like 26 kilometres. I remember the first time I tried to do consecutive, long days like that, the next day, my rest day, I feel like the bus has ran over me. I thought there's no way I could do this, that was so painful. And sometimes you slow down as well and you get frustrated with yourself because you're thinking oh, I shouldn't be able to run faster. If it's a shorter distance, I can definitely go faster. But walking right now, I'm crawling right now I'm literally just using my hands to pick up my foot, to pick up my legs. A lot of these races, again, people think you have to have incredible physical ability to do it. But actually 80% mental and 20% physical. You have to be disciplined, you have to constantly adapt, you have to be patient with yourself. And you have to understand the goal that you're trying to do very well, you need to understand what it means to you to reach that finish line, to uncover yourself in the process, to know more of yourself throughout the whole experience. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  13:21

So what you're saying is that training for an ultra-endurance race is about preparing yourself mentally and physically. And mentally is almost like 80% of it. Some of the things that you would do in doing that preparation would be to, number one, look at how you can have a mindset where you're constantly able to adapt and adapt very quickly because the environment might change out there in the desert when you're there. And what goes hand in hand with that adaptation process is that you also have to have discipline that you observe something and you have to do it right now like take a sip of water, and you're going to do it even though you don't feel like it. And then number two is that core physical part of it where you're building your stamina and part of it is pushing yourself on back-to-back sessions where if you did 20 kilometres, the first day you're doing 26 just because you want to show your body that you can stretch that limit a little bit more. I like the last piece and it really talks about that whole empathy and about understanding yourself because you say patience is needed, patience to understand yourself to understand what your goal is about and why it's important. So that when that moment comes and you need that extra to cross that extra mile you got something you can dig deep into to get it out, right. Wonderful. Thank you so much for making it easy for us to understand. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  14:56

I wanted to get your thoughts about how you deal with crisis. And I'm sure in your sport you have dealt with that. 

Ms. Thanh Vu  15:08

Unexpected things happen all the time out there, especially in the wilderness. When we were crossing the Black Gobi Valley, it was boiling hot, like I'd never experienced heat like that ever in my life. It literally felt like you're being baked in an oven, and there were no shades around, just scorching. And you feel like you're just going to drop dead any moment. It was really very scary and very traumatising. At that point, it was sort of like the record temperature for the Gobi Race, we just have to be sensible with everything, constantly checking, adjusting our clothing, drinking the water. Even drinking the water became a huge challenge because the ambient temperature of the water is hotter than your body. So keep drinking, it makes your body heat up. But you need to drink to stay hydrated. So no matter what. I remember trying to eat and could not. But I know that if I'm not going to eat, I'm going to get into trouble, I'm not going to have enough energy to continue. That was just absolutely insane because that was the longest stage. It was 74 kilometres and 30 kilometres, and you see some of the leaders, they are struggling as well. And that really scares you. Your mind started to go insane, started to think, you know, "Who do I think I am?" Even the top runners, they are struggling, “Am I going to make it?”

Ms. Thanh Vu  16:43

In that situation, you have no choice but to remain calm. Assess constantly everything. Is there anything I can open up to reduce my body temperature? How much water do I have? How often do I need to sip water? How much calories do I need to get into my body? And there's one point where I really just can't eat anymore but I know I have to so I just chew as much as I can, and then spit it out. And I know it's better if I can actually eat it. But I know I'm just going to throw up. And so I just have to find the next best solution. Throughout the whole thing remaining calm is critical. And it was very scary. There were no shades and there was this little rock. And you see one of the top-runner is huddling trying to hide under the rock and you look at that, your mind go places and you get so scared. But again, remaining calm and keep doing things that you have to do one step at a time, sometimes the wind would come. And you think the wind would relieve some of the heat but it really felt like someone took a giant hairdryer and blow it at you constantly. In those cases, you again I have to assess the situation, I realised that as I get closer and closer to camp, the weather is probably going to get worse. The wind picked up stronger and the sand started blowing up everywhere. The faster I go within my ability is better because it's going to reduce the time that I'm out there. The longer I stay out there, the worse the weather can get. And so many factors can affect the race. So just within my ability, trying to do what I can as best as I can. 

Ms. Thanh Vu  18:38

When I get to camp not long after that, I think I got to camp at like 10pm at night and completely relieved but then the tent started collapsing because then the wind has turned into a sandstorm. And we're like huddling under these big rocks crawling inside the rock to take shelter. I heard from some people at the back of the pack. They told us like how much worse it was because their visibility is completely gone. They couldn't see the markers on the course anymore, these little pink flags. And they would have to kind of travel in pack, one person would go out and trying to find the next flag pull out to the pack and they would move, bits by bits like that. It took them five hours just to do five kilometres. Eventually, the organiser evacuated the runners that were still on the course when the sandstorm got too bad. But it was certainly a crisis. I have never experienced anything like that in my life. The only way is to remain calm, constantly assess the situation, and do the best that you can do with what you have at that moment. Remaining calm is The key for me on that day. I mean, it teaches me. That lesson continues to be applied throughout my daily lives. Every time something difficult happen, every time work didn't go my way or life didn't go my way, or the fears started to take over, I have to remember back to that moment, just one step at a time, stay calm, no matter what do the best that you can do at that moment. It was a very scary experience. It took me a while to get over it, I really had to rethink a lot of things as well, my goals that year, I still had two more races to complete after that race. And that race really kind of got me like, "Is it really worth it? Do I have the big enough 'Why' to continue? I did find the 'Why', I did find the courage to continue. I love that experience now, it taught me so much about being resilient, and at the same time, being calm and grateful for the situation.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  21:13

That's really awesome. I love how you have broken it up into the different steps that one can use in a crisis or a setback. And like you said, remain calm, assess the situation, constantly scan the environment, then do what is needed to the best of your ability. Because whatever you need to do, you just have to do it. It took you to do one step at a time. The other piece that I liked also, what you talked about was move as a pack is sort of counterintuitive because it in this sense can be an individual sport. And yet there's collaboration going on to making sure that everyone also completes it. And the last part is being grateful. I think you've given us a very comprehensive way to deal with crisis. How do you keep calm? Do you do breathing exercises? Or you tell yourself, "Keep calm"? Or what do you do?  

Ms. Thanh Vu  22:09

From experience, keeping calm I realised is the best way to keep your mind stable, certainly your breathing. If your breathing is shallow, and you lose a lot more energy by panicking, your brain uses up a lot of power. How do you stay calm is like how do you breathe? You just do, you just have to keep telling yourself stay calm.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  22:38

So, it's like an affirmation that you constantly give yourself and use that moment to sort of breathe slower and calmly. 

Ms. Thanh Vu  22:46

Yes, because when you panic, I'm a skydiver, too. And I'm actually a little bit afraid of heights. So if I stand on a high floor, and the railing is a little too low, I get very antsy. I get like my hands start sweating. But I love skydiving, and it's also a lot about skills. I don't want people to start thinking I am an adrenaline junkie, a lot of it is skills, and a lot of it is teaching oneself. The whole way up, I'm terrified. The door open and that cold wind rushed in, your body just kind of freeze that moment because it's so critical to stay calm. I have to be. I love it. Because it's a skill building. The first few times I do weren't so good. I wasn't as calm as I wanted to be. But again, it's practice. And it's the same thing. Take deep breaths, tell yourself to stay present and vigilant, assessing everything always - assessing altitude, assessing people around you, assessing your heading, your orientation, all of that. In a situation that is less critical to life and death, it is the same thing, breathing, and stay calm, even if your hands are sweating. You have to understand in moments like that it's so clear if you detach yourself from fear. It's not like I'm fearful. I have fear. I'm not anxious. I have anxiety. So all those things like your hands, your palms sweating, and your leg shakes a little bit, that's not you. That's something that's happening to your body. But you know, you're calm, you're strong, you have the ability to do this. We all have it within ourselves. We just have to bring it out. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  24:34

Wow, that's really amazing. Thank you for sharing that. What do you do for a living? Where do you work and how do you juggle practice and participating in competition and having a corporate career? 

Ms. Thanh Vu  24:54

When I was in my early 20s, I was so intrigued by the 4 Deserts Grand Slam, and I wanted to become the first female from Vietnam and from Southeast Asia and actually from Asia to be able to do this goal. So I'd left my corporate job and pursued that goal. A lot of people are surprised that I actually went back to the corporate life after. I really enjoy creating values for people around me. And I want to use my endurance challenges as a lifestyle, to be able to have those experience, to be the better version of myself, to bring what I learned about life from those experiences back into daily life, and share those experiences with the community around me. So I work with THP, one of the biggest three beverage companies, and the only Vietnamese beverage company that actually can go head to head with the big MNCs, like Coca-Cola, and Pepsi. I come to work for them because I think we share a lot of the same values and purpose. Definitely, I love doing things that prove that nothing is impossible. And that is one of the very core values that have driven the company to where it is today, which is a billion-dollar enterprise. And also, we really want to bring Vietnam to the world arena, we want to make a mark in the world for Vietnam. And so it's a natural decision to take a corporate role at THP after they have actually sponsored me for the 4 Desert Grand Slam. So I work at THP full time, but I also do one to two big races a year because I love during those endurance challenge, I can come back and share my experience with everyone. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  26:52

You've been lucky to figure out how to blend your passion with your career. And that's awesome. I also love the fact that you shared how your own personal purpose in life is consistent with the organisation's purpose. It's no surprise you enjoy your work. And you can see the consistency on a day-to-day basis. THP also happens to be a family-owned business, and how do you find working in a family business?

Ms. Thanh Vu  27:21

I think it's great because I'm able to learn a lot. The opportunity to work closely with a family is amazing, what they are doing now, the family members are giving their hearts and minds to the company. They are actually in a much, much bigger, longer ultra-endurance race. And I just love that you never see any of them stop working because working for them is very enjoyable. It's part of their life. It's part of the way they play. So if you ask the family, like "Why do your work so hard? Why do you have so much energy?" It's because they really get to be the best version of themselves within that environment. They get to struggle, they get to overcome, they get to inspire they get to lead, all of that makes something that looks really difficult to the outsiders very enjoyable to them. Yeah.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  28:24

Wonderful. I've never had anyone describe a family business as ultra-race. It's definitely an apt way to me to describe it because a family business is there for the long run. And so it's an ultra-race. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  28:42

Thanh, I wanted to ask you a new question, and it's about spirituality. Where are you in that journey? What is spirituality for you?

Ms. Thanh Vu  28:49

For me, it certainly has been a really incredible journey. I grew up in Vietnam. So I'm very practical. I grow up believing in myself. I was taught to believe in myself, I was taught to believe in hard work. The first half of my life up until now, I'm very much holding faith in myself, right, like champion, challenges, believe in myself and all that. I was very fortunate to have good friends around me in university and the way that they are. They are kind, smart, driven, but they are also very rooted, very grounded in some way. And at that time, I never feel like I have that security. I don't have that peace of mind that I seem to observe from my friends who have their faith. So I come to explore, to question, to learn. And my friends were very nice and kind, and also they are patient with me and they started inviting me to church and to Bible study. It was a journey for me as well. I've made a conscious decision to became a Christian in my second year of university. I am fully aware of that, you know, at that age, people are generally very impressionable. They feel like they- I need to start asking questions and need guidance. I was very conscious. And I was actually a little bit afraid that "Oh, am I exploring accepting faith in this religion because of the period in my life right now?" But right now, I know that it is the right choice for me, especially when you talk about spirituality. 

Ms. Thanh Vu  30:47

I feel that whenever I'm out there, in these wilderness, in these gorgeous, beautiful places on earth, and looking at thousands of stars in the sky, crossing the most beautiful places, people often think deserts are all sand. But no, they are absolutely stunning at the Atacama Desert, there are places that look like the moon surface, just absolutely out of this world. Yeah, and I feel a certain connection there. I feel really at peace, even though we are limited on food and water and stripped off of all the normal luxury that we have in our daily live. You would be sort of like in suffering mode. But no, you are really just so at peace with yourself, even the struggles are enjoyable, and I feel a certain connection with God in those moments. And I'm not saying Christianity, or certain religion is the right choice. For me, I've made a decision and made that choice. But I think that anyone who can sort of put themselves in an environment where it is so distilled, they will be able to open up for possibilities of things and find that peacefulness within themselves. That is probably the most precious thing in terms of spirituality. So I would encourage anyone, you don't have to run thousands of kilometres across deserts or in the mountains or anything like that. But just find ways to connect again with nature, to get out of your normal daily lives. Just spend time with yourself, spend time with just the surrounding, no distraction of technology, of work, of family, of all these different worries that normal daily lives would often bring.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  33:07

Well said, on the other note, we are living in a world of disruption. And I wonder sometimes whether it's possible to live a simple life. What is a simple life? And can you live a simple life today?

Ms. Thanh Vu  33:19

Such an interesting question, right? Because the definition of simple life depends on who you ask. I have friends, I know people who live the simple life that's often understood as just not a lot of worries, not a lot of responsibilities. They're like in the outback with nature. They wake up early in the morning, watch the sunrise it on TV, look at the beautiful forests or river in front of their hut. They sustain from the environment, water from the streams, food from their gardens. To some people, that's a simple life, and they enjoy it because they also feel at peace. There is not a lot of worries. But I've also seen people who are in a very high-stress environment, who are able to maintain a simple life. They may have a lot of responsibilities with the work. They may be founders or CEO of companies of very, very high-performing entity, but they are very clear on the purpose of their life and how they want to live it. And I think it doesn't matter if their schedules are completely filled from Monday to Sunday, but they wake up and they understand why they wake up that day and what they need to work toward. I think that alone gives you so much strength and so much power. And I think for me, that's what I really want to get to, I want to wake up every day, knowing that I'm still tied to that goal, tied to that purpose.  

Ms. Thanh Vu  35:08

Right now, especially after the pandemic, I can be very frank, during the pandemic, I was locked in. There was a lockdown in Vietnam, due to a series of events. I was actually in my apartment by myself for four months. And it was very hard. I tried to keep positive. But I can tell you that because I was not able to go out there and to be myself. There were days that it was really hard to wake up and get out of bed. It was so hard, what you want to do and how you want to live your life. But in that environment, sometimes there's hopelessness, they're just a nonchalant attitude, complacency really. During that period, I also have to remind myself, I guess, I'm climbing a mountain, and I can't see the top, right. So it's gonna be really hard. It's gonna be really challenging, but I know I have to get through this in order to continue with the purpose that I have chosen. And absolutely, after the lockdown was done, and I was able to get out and really be myself, express myself. It was an amazing experience. A couple of weeks after the lockdown, I was able to swim 31 kilometres in the pool for my 31st birthday. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  36:46


Ms. Thanh Vu  36:47

Yeah. And that is the longest I've ever swum, especially in a 50-meter pool. And there was no boredom. There was just joy. And I'm not a good swimmer, I have endurance. But I wouldn't say I am a good swimmer. So to pick up after four months of not being ready to do anything to work toward my goal, just the ability to be myself, and to express myself that I feel brought a lot out in me. Yeah, the whole 16 hours in the water. It was absolutely so joyful. There was no pain that bothered me. The body feels it. But yeah, absolutely just wonderful. Yeah. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  37:35

I really liked what you said about living a simple life just fulfilling on your purpose from the time you wake up in the morning to you fall asleep, really tired that you've spent all of yourself. 

Ms. Thanh Vu  37:49


Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  37:55

The last question that I have for you is what is 'Thriving' for you? 

Ms. Thanh Vu  38:01

That's a really complex question for me to be honest. But thriving, for me, it means a couple of things. First of all, thriving means trying to be a better version of myself. Every day, every year, I get a little bit better with what I want to do. So that sort of growing, that sort of levelling up, seeking the next challenge that will bring out, it's almost like shedding skin and growing a new version, the better self. Yes. 

Ms. Thanh Vu  38:37

And the second thing is that to really create meaning for this life, and creating values for others, right. All these journeys that I go on, even though there's a lot of solitude, even in training, or when I'm out there, but there's a lot of people in it, whether it was my coach or my friends or my family, or the community around me. I remember my very first desert race, it was wonderful. I get to engage with all kinds of people because I was fundraising for a charity that helped to build bookcases for children in remote area. And these kids, I realised that what I'm doing at that point, even though it was very challenging for me. It's something that a lot of people experienced on a daily basis. Kids in the mountains, say, the ethnic minority in northern Vietnam. It's not unusual that they go 30 kilometres just to get to school, and they cross rivers, they climb mountains and that's just the way they go to school. And so for them, their own desert or their own ultra-endurance race might be different. It might be getting to a point where they can support their family, provide for their parents, or becoming the first member of their family that made it to university. And I realised that and so I want my journey to honour them, and to create values for them. And so there are many points where I thought, I'm kind of running out of energy, I'm running on steam, I don't know if I can hold on. But just telling myself to just take one more step, just try one more, and then one more. And then I just keep telling myself, "One more step." And remembering those kids and remembering the purpose. "I didn't feel alone, I didn't feel desperate or defeated." I think that was a very, very beautiful moment for me as well because I know that if I still have it in me, I would want to try and not disappoint the cause that I have set out to help.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  41:04

Very good. So 'Thriving' is about being the better self every day, creating meaning for yourself and value for others. And it's about fulfilling that bigger goal that you're up to so that little obstacles that you face on a day-to-day basis can disappear in the face of that big goal that you're up to creating and fulfilling. Thank you so much, Thanh for being in this podcast. I'm sure the listeners would be so excited to hear this alternative perspective that you have provided us, especially creating mental endurance through the ultra-races that you have participated in, and how that shows up in your life.

Ms. Thanh Vu  41:47

Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It's always a joy. Thank you.

Ho Lai Yun  41:52

Thank you, Dr. Ramesh and Thanh for sharing this inspiring view into what pushes an elite athlete like Thanh to top global level in these superhuman endurance sports. If you enjoy what you're hearing, be sure to share our podcast with your friends and family. And please do join us again, here on our next Thriving in the Age of Disruption episode. Next up, Dr. Ramesh will be chatting with a tech entrepreneur and angel investor based in Dubai in United Arab Emirates, Mr. Rajiv Dalmia, Founder and Chairman of Data Direct Group.

Photo credit:
Vietnam Times