Impossible Target with Journey to 2:54 Marathon – an interview w/ Quy Nguyen

BV: First of all, congrats on your huge achievement at the Surf City Marathon, 2:54:42, pace 6:39/mi is an incredible time. Was that something you trained for and expected to achieve? 

QN: Not expecting it come so soon, but my goal was to get there one day 

BV: Tell us about yourself. Where were you born? When did you come to the States? Where did you settle before moving to Southern California 

QN: I was born June 5, 1971 in Da Nang, Vietnam and came here in 1980 to Iowa. I lived with a white family before coming to California to live with my dad. I’m a hairdresser and I have passion to help others like others had helped me in the past. 

BV: Now, let’s talk about your training. I was told that you don’t follow a specific training plan, you just run and run, sort of like Forrest Gump, is that true? 

QN: Yes, pretty much! just try to stay consistent. 

BV: I was also told that you don’t do interval or tempo runs. You just go out and build up those mileages running easy pace, sort of like Maffetone Aerobic Function (MAF) method. Can you confirm that? 

QN: Yes, that’s how I train, just have fun. 

BV: On the average, how many miles do you run per week? 

QN: About like 60 or so. I try to stay injury free. I have only tried running 100 miles a week for 2 times but at a super slow pace to avoid injury. My main thing is to be healthy and able to run everyday to help promote SJVRC Organization OneMile4OneChild here in Orange County 

BV: I will get to the charity in part 2. Do you think those 100 miles helped make a difference this time? 

QN: Only if you’re running it at a very slow pace and be an everyday runner like me. Yes it helps to preserve your legs and build in the mileage you need. Keep in mind that I break the mileage in 2 part so I don’t run them all at one shot. I run some in the morning and some in the evening, if that makes sense. 

BV: It does! How do you manage to run those many miles with your busy schedule? In another interview, you said you used to run at night after your kids went to bed. Is that still the norm? 

QN: Before I was doing just 35-45 mile a week so running at night was enough because of my busy schedule with work and kids. But then I realized I wanted to improve more, so I felt that putting a lot of mileage so late at night like 11:00- 

11:30pm was too much so I broke it down and ran after I dropped off my kids to school and headed to Miles Square Park, did a quick run before work and then some short mileage at night after my kids went to bed. So instead of doing my run like before, at 12:30 am or 1:00am, now I am done before 12 and get more rest for the next day. 

BV: I see that you used to train by yourself, but when we met in October last year you said you started training with a running club. Tell me about this club. 

Quy Nguyen and Bruce Vu, Mile Square Park, OC, CA, 10/2019

QN: I run on Saturday at 7 am with new runners at Mile Square Park and Sunday at Huntington beach pier at 7:30 am with another group, which we call our SJVRC fun run days, and on Tuesday I run with a big group of American runners, which is called Tuesday Night Run in Laguna Niguel to help promote SJVRC Organization OneMile4OneChild, but most of the time when I’m not helping other runners I run by myself, 80% of the time 

BV: You have an unusual running form, you mentioned that unlike other runners who learn forward, you just run straight up. Tell me about it. 

QN: Yes I run very straight back up and kind of like Tai Chi running. I believe that focusing on your forms and breathing rhythm techniques is the key besides being patient with the process and being consistent. Even when I run slow or doing a cool down I focus on my running forms and breathing. After all my workout run I always cool down by running 0.30 mile backwards. 

BV: You mentioned breathing is very important in running, especially when trying to pick up the pace. Share with us your breathing technique. 

QN: for breathing techniques you need to breathe in your nose, out of your mouth slowly. If your heart rate is high you need to breathe out slowly so that it will lower your heart rate. I do belly breathing technique. 

BV: You’re also a cyclist, are you still riding while training for marathons? Is that part of your cross training? 

QN: I kind of decided to stop biking for now because I wanted to focus on mastering my running skills so that I can have a better understanding for running a marathon so I can help train others that I come across that want to run a marathon too. 

BV: You’re a good cyclist and an awesome runner. How about your swimming skills? Do you plan to be a triathlete someday? 

QN: I plan to come back to full steam on bike training in 2021 and for swimming my goal is to spend 2020 to focus on learning how to swim the right way because I only know one style of swimming like most Vietnamese, which is the doggie style, LOL. For ironman, yes that’s my dream to do it in 2021 but that depends on how fast I learn how to swim because there is a cut-off time that I need to finish for the swimming part or I can’t continue to the biking or running part. 

BV: You continue to make huge progress in running. Just last month you ran 1:22 at San Diego Holiday Half Marathon on Dec 21st 2019 and qualified for NYC marathon 2020, and now 2:54 to qualify for Berlin Marathon. If I’m not mistaken, you just started running in September 2018. You must be doing something right. Share with us your secret besides all the things you already mentioned above 

QN: No, I started running in January of 2019 when I decided to sign up for LA marathon because of peer pressure. After signing up I didn’t know how to run or train for the marathon until I saw chi Tara Dang’s post on her 100-day SJVRC charity challenge. I were so impressed so decided to follow her journey, and then few weeks later I decided to I text her on Facebook message, asking her how she could run every day without being hurt. That’s when she introduced me to Luong Le, the man that helped me get to where I am today. He shared with me his training and experience. He told me to do the 100-day challenge by running 3 miles every day and that would help me to do my first marathon while helping other people too. I loved the ideas so I went for it. I’m not going to lie, but the first 20 days of running everyday was hard, but after that I love it and I am still running every day to this day, which is now 380 days that I’ve been running every day to promote SJVRC Organization OneMile4OneChild vision to help promote awareness to raise money for the less fortunate kids in Vietnam. The secret is you need to find your passion why you started what you’ve started. So for me I found my passion for running every day to help promote SJVRC Organization OneMile4OneChild mission. So it’s kind of like running with a purpose 

BV: Now let’s talk about the SJVRC OneMile4OneChild. This charity was founded in San Jose, Northern CA. How did a Southern CA boy like you get involved? 

QN: Like I said it came to me at the right time when I was in search for help with my training for the first marathon back in January 20, 2019, then I came across their 100-day challenge charity running every day. I truly believe that moment when I came across the post on Facebook changed my whole life forever for the good since I always wanted to do some kind of charity work but nothing hit my heart as much as SJVRC Organization because they help people from my home town Da Nang Vietnam. 

BV: Explain to us how one can contribute to your charity? Many people would like to donate and get the records so that they can file tax at the end of the year. Is that possible? 

QN: If anyone would like to donate they can PayPal to or VENMO to SJVRC Organization, and to learn more just go to our website or follow SJVRC Organization on Facebook and Instagram to find out more about our mission. Yes we are a nonprofit Organization, which means your donation is 100% tax deductible and when you donate 100% of it goes towards helping the less fortunate kids in Vietnam. 

We can send the donors a copy for their donations to use for tax deduction. Just let us know and we’re happy to give you the copy. 

BV: When I met you in CA last year, there was another gentleman (chu Tuan) also doing the nonstop run, like 365 days without stopping, to raise funds. That is a very hard concept to understand, how can you just run and raise funds? Can you explain it? 

QN: Yes, in southern California we now have chu Tuan Vu, a 71 year-old person, who joined the 100-day challenge charity, running everyday for which he had just completed and helped raise thousands of dollars for the charity run. And we now also have Lisa Ly here in OC, who also just joined the 100-day charity running challenge too and she is into her 76 days of the 100 days so far. We also have Natasha Vo and Thuy Van Nguyen also doing the 60-day charity running challenge. So yes, the southern California OC team is growing day by day, and I would like to invite others to join us even if they don’t wish to do the challenge but just want come and get involved in helping the SJVRC Organization, just come out to meet us and find out more about our mission. 

BV: The SJVRC also schedules trips to Vietnam to allow its members participate in charity events and running the marathon in VN at the same time. Do you plan to be part of that in the next trip? 

QN: Yes I plan on taking my whole family back to Vietnam to be involved with the Organization this year in the end July and also to run the Da Nang marathon with the rest of the team there. 

BV: Last but not least, what is your next goal in running, in doing charity and life in general? 

QN: My main goal is try to do my best to put SJVRC Organization OneMile4OneChild in the biggest stage with all the races so that we have a great chance and opportunity to expose ourselves to the running community and the world about our passion to helping and raising money for the less fortunate kids in Vietnam. Everything else that I can accomplish along the way is just a bonus to me and a blessing from God 

BV: Thank you so much for your answers. Good luck with what you’re striving for. Continue to inspire us. I will see you at Boston in April. 

QN: I hope I’d answers it ok because I’m not much a writer, it’s hard for me to explain things in words. Thanks you so much for thinking of me and helping me to 

spread the words out within our community. My dream is to help Luong Le to get a biggest group of Vietnamese runner here in OC to come together and carry the mission and vision of SJVRC Organization OneMile4OneChild. So please pray for my health so I can keep running every day to improve myself to bring SJVRC Organization OneMile4OneChild to the biggest stage possible. Honestly Luong Le is the man, I’m just a messenger. So I don’t want the story to make me bigger than SJVRC because I care more about SJVRC than myself. It’s much bigger than me. Just to let you know what my mindset is, I owe my success to SJVRC. They are what motivated me to running every day and to be the best I can be for them. Thanks again anh Bruce 

Quy Nguyen and Luong Le, Surf City Marathon, 2/2/2020

About his education:

BV: First, you mentioned that you came to the US 40 years ago when you were 

only 9. That means you have no education in Vietnam. Did you go to school in the US? May I ask what your highest education is? 

QN: Yes I came here about 40 years ago when I was only 9 and I was what people called boat people. I came to HongKong then to America. I went to UCI but after 3 and half years I decided to take a break from school and tried doing something else because I was like a lost soul in school. I didn’t feel that I focused enough in school to continue with it and wasted more money, so I decided to try doing hair, which just came very naturally for me because while helping my oldest brother clean his salon for extra money for school expenses I watched him cut and teach others how to do it, and I visualized how I could do and teach other people better if I were a hairdresser. So one night after cleaning the salon I told my brother that I had been watching him teach his students and thought that he didn’t know how to deliver his talent to his students, then he hand me the shear and comb and said to me: “Here, you think you can do better, show me!” Then after I performed the whole cut that he were trying to show his students who were struggling with. At that moment he said: “Wow, let sign you up for a hair competition with $1000 award and you can use it for school”. I agreed to go for it because I like the challenge and also need the money. Low and behold I came in 1st place and won that $1,000 + the $500 bet my brother promised me if I got 1st place. After that my brother told me why not try doing hair and if I didn’t like it I could go back to school. I was afraid to tell my dad that I’m going to take a break from college and go to school to do hair. I did it anyway without telling him and then at 26 years I opened my own hair salon in Irvine. 

About his first marathon: 

BV: Your first marathon was LA marathon last year. You had a good finish time, but I’m sure it was a disappointment for you. Can you talk about that a little bit? It’s important for the readers to know because we all learn from our failure. 

QN: Yes LA marathon was my first marathon and at that moment when I signed up all I just wanted to do was to finish it but when I met chi Tara Dang and Luong Le from SJVRC they helped me train for it like in a very short period. During the training period Luong Le was the one that saw something in me that I didn’t know I had. He told me I could finish it in 3:30 if I ran at this 8:00 pace that day. At the 

moment I told him he was crazy, no way could I do that because it was my first marathon. So he worked out the plan for me how to get there before the race, but sadly my ego got to me that day and also I couldn’t find a 3:30 pacer to follow because I was lost on that day finding the pacer; it was so crowded and being my first race I was so disorganized and didn’t know where to check in my bag and didn’t even stretch out or ran a warm up. So when the race started I just ran and didn’t even pay attention to my pace. The whole time I was trying to run and find the pacer, which I didn’t have to because I had my watch to tell me the pace but I didn’t look at it much. I ran with some people and as you know during the race you feel like you can hang with anyone, but then came mile 17 I started to felt some pain on my left foot. I kept running but by mile 20 I walked and then ran, and walked then ran until I finished it at 3:47. After the race when I got home I took my shoes and socks off, I learned why my left foot hurt like hell; my big toenail turn black from my sock being too tight, causing it to rub on the tip of the sock for the whole race. So my advice is to leave some room between your socks and your toes and that goes for shoes size too. Also don’t worry about running with any pacer, just use your watch as a pacer just like in your training. Get to the race early and follow your game plan. Be patient and don’t let the excitement of race day get you out of your game plan, which happened to me. Remember on pre-race days, which is called tapering week you need to sleep early and wake up early and go run early like race day so your body get used to the feeling of race day. That whole week eat lots of carbs, fish, beets and no greasy or spices foods. The night before race day no meat because meat takes very long to digest, and most importantly, hydrate the whole week. For me on Wednesday I drink one bottle of Pedialyte each day till race day. It is important when it gets to the last 2 days before the race, don’t eat anything or do anything differently, that way your body is not shocked. One day before the race try to stay off your feet and rest but you can still do some slow easy running till race day. Also the last 2 mornings before race day try to eat the same food before you go out to run like race day. For me I drink some pedialyte and eat 1 plain bagel before I go out for a run as I would do during race morning. Also soak your feet in ice water as much as you can that week too and right after you get home from the race, this will help you recovered from your race. Try to do a recovery slow run the next day even if you have to walk it, but you must go out and do a recovery run or your legs will stiffen up. If you don’t, it will take even longer for your recovery or it might even do some damage to your body tissues, so it very important to do the recovery workout after the race. Also rehydrate your body for the amount of fluid you lost from the race. Finally, stretching out your body also helps. 

Quy and Family


Running Accomplishment: 

  • 3/24/2019: LA Marathon, 3:47 
  • 8/25/2919: Santa Rosa Marathon, 3:10:14 – qualified Boston and Chicago 
  • 12/21/2019: San Diego Half Marathon, 1:22 – qualified New York City 
  • 2/2/2020: Surf City Marathon, 2:54:42 – qualified Berlin and London 
  • Next target: TBD Marathon 2:40 to qualify Tokyo (2:45)