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Student ultra-runner: 'Bristol helped me become best version of myself'

Left: The route of Viet-Anh Tran's homemade 100km ultramarathon along Portway. Right: Viet-Anh before his ultra-marathon

Viet-Anh cries tears of joy following the Manchester Marathon

Viet-Anh during his six month hitch-hiking trip

Press release issued: 12 June 2023

A student who ran 2,000 miles on Portway during his degree has signed off his time in Bristol with a 100km ultra marathon along the A-road.

Viet-Anh Tran said he “recognised every pebble” as he ran nine laps from Harbourside to Sea Mills Station over 16 hours.

The 22-year-old rarely exercised before he moved to the UK to study Computer Science at the University of Bristol, but found running helped boost his mental health.

He initially ran in Converse but got more serious as he began heading along Portway most days. By his third year, he was often running the route for up to three hours each evening.

Viet-Anh said: “Running was completely new to me at the beginning and I was really terribly slow. But doing something unusual and unfamiliar helped me believe that there’s more to me than I thought.

“It started to really help my mental health, so I just kept going. Being in Bristol and running regularly has helped me find meaning and allowed me to love myself for who I am.

“I’ve made great friends here. Bristol has helped me become the best version of myself.”

Viet-Anh Tran grew up in a Vietnamese expat family in Romania. Along with facing racism, as the best Romanian speaker in his family he often took on adult responsibilities - something that “caused me to grow up fast”.

Predicted poor grades, Viet-Anh was rejected from every university he applied for. Instead, he spent six months hitch-hiking 3,000 miles from Amsterdam to Armenia: living cheap, sleeping rough and learning from the hundreds of people he met.

Eventually achieving top grades, he applied to the University of Bristol after hearing about it from fellow travellers in Turkey.

He said: “My first thought when I came to Bristol was ‘everything is so beautiful!’”

Viet-Anh said his difficult years as a minority in Romania meant he “bottled up emotions” but through “running and the help of others” he found a more positive way of living.

Viet-Anh did his ultramarathon as part of the Bristol Run Series - virtual running events organised by the University that anyone can take part in. Entrants get free training support and finishers receive medals.

On the day of the ultramarathon, Viet-Anh began running at 6am and did not stop until 10pm, burning nearly 10,000 calories along the way.

“When I finished I was in disbelief and very proud of myself,” he said. “Initially my body felt okay, and then every step started hurting. My friend came to join me at the finish so I used their electric scooter to get around!

“Running really changed my life. Out there I had to be alone with my thoughts, I had to face things head on – and I learned to love myself.”

Matt Birch, Director of Sport, Exercise and Health at the University, said: “Viet-Anh’s journey from a non-runner to an ultra marathon finisher is massively impressive, and it’s fantastic to see what an impact it’s had on his mental health.

“He probably knows Portway better than anyone else in Bristol now!”

Viet-Anh graduates from the University in July. He is currently doing an internship before starting a master’s at Oxford University in September.

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