Marathon couple hit country number 60
They’ve run alongside military tanks in Chile, waded through groups of poverty-stricken children in Tanzania, and had well-wishers giving them beer for energy in Germany.
Now globe-hopping couple Yen Nguyen and Peter Bennett are set to find out what Bermuda’s got in store as they make the Island the 60th country in which they’ve run a marathon.
A codfish breakfast at the finish line, maybe, would add a Bermudian chapter to the extraordinary story of the husband and wife who combine their love for running with an unquenchable thirst for travelling.
The pair, from Houston, are visiting Bermuda for the first time to take part in Sunday’s marathon, nine years into a quest which has taken them far afield in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas and a host of Caribbean islands.
“For the longest times, we had heard so many nice things about the Bermuda marathon from runners all over the world,” said Nguyen ahead of their trip to the Island.
“Now we have an opportunity to travel to Bermuda not only to run our 60th country marathon but also to check it off our wish list and ‘100 places one must visit before one dies’.
“We cannot wait to see the tropical landscape, blue ocean, cool breeze, but most importantly the warm hospitalities from the locals and the race organisers.”
In total, Nguyen has run 460 marathons or ultras, and Bennett 325; it’s been a long road since the couple completed a marathon in all 50 States of America and decided to expand their mission across the planet.
As you’d expect, each country has its own customs. Their anecdotes include running through Bangkok in the small hours of the morning, on the beach in Brazil and with the traffic in Shanghai.
In 2006, the Chile marathon route was lined with a barricade of tanks due to protests over a new government.
Five years ago, they handed out candies to young children as they wove through deprived areas of Tanzania, while in 2009 they ran in borrowed moccasins after their luggage got lost in Belgium.
And aid stations have shown a range of attitudes to refuelling techniques, with assistants in Germany handing out beer and bread, wine offered in Paris and pickles and herring in Stockholm.
“We love to combine travelling with fitness,” said Nguyen. “It is a mini-vacation that helps us relieve stress and get to learn another culture and expand our horizon.
“While we enjoy running races, the whole purpose of travelling to Bermuda is because we have never been there.
“We had seen pictures and advertisements about the Island on TV or movies, but now we will get to see the famous pink sand beaches with our own eyes.
“We look forward to relaxing and running a nice warm friendly marathon and to eating local cuisines, fresh tropical fruits, and taking lots of pictures.”
Bermuda’s conditions shouldn’t pose too many difficulties for Nguyen, a 50-year-old accountant, and Bennett, a 38-year-old attorney.
“Being from Houston, we are used to the heat and humidity so that is welcome compared to running in the Scandinavian countries or Korea or Japan right now,” said Nguyen.
“Running a country marathon can be much harder than running in your own country because of the language barriers. Running the marathon distance is not as hard as to find the starting line.
“But we love meeting runners from others countries. We learned that despite the geographical and culture difference, people are the same human beings everywhere.
“Runners are the same breed in all 60 different countries. We love the camaraderie and that interconnection with volunteers and runners. Running a marathon in different countries has taught us how to respect all mankind and to appreciate freedom.”