Former Clitheroe Royal Grammar School pupil Rob’s Vietnamese river run to raise funds for newborns

From left to right, Rob West with Marieke Dekkers and Grant Bowdery.
From left to right, Rob West with Marieke Dekkers and Grant Bowdery.

A former Clitheroe Royal Grammar School pupil has completed a 300km, three person, non-stop running relay in Vietnam, to raise money for a charity called Newborns Vietnam.

Rob West (32), whose father owns Fortress Kitchens in Clitheroe, completed the challenge with two other ex-Pats living in Saigon.

Rob, Grant Bowdery (41) from the UK and Marieke Dekkers (39) from the Netherlands completed the non-stop trail-running relay along the banks of the Red River starting in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi and finishing in Lai Cai, by the Chinese border last month.

Originally aiming to complete the challenge in 36 hours and raise $30,000, the trio completed the challenge in 29 hours and 45 minutes – more than six hours ahead of schedule.

And their efforts have so far raised a total of $18,918.

Rob, who after studying to become a teacher moved to Shanghai were he taught PE and swimming for three years before moving on to Vietnam, said: “UK-based charity Newborns Vietnam offers training and equipment to Vietnamese hospitals helping to combat infant mortality, which is a big killer in Vietnam.

“Funds are desperately needed for a range of purposes from the purchase of incubators for premature babies and other life-saving equipment to training doctors and nurses in newborn care.”

Living in Vietnam for almost five years, Rob coaches swimming at an International School and has his own swimming club “Saigon Swim Squad”.

In the darkness of a 4am start, the trio began their push from in front of the National Children’s Hospital in Hanoi, just one of many places the UK-registered charity Newborns Vietnam is involved with.

“We looked at a map of hospitals and clinics Newborns Vietnam works with, noticed that Lao Cai was the furthest away and that several other clinics could be included on a route that would connect them all on our run,” explained Grant Bowdery.

During the challenge, the trio were seeking to maintain a pace of just over seven minutes per kilometre for 36 hours.

Taking it in turns for one or two hours each – depending on how hot it got – while one ran, the other two rested, rehydrated, and ate in a mini-van staffed by two support crew and a driver.

The group’s original goal – to complete the 300-kilometers within 36 hours – is symbolic as the first 36 hours of a newborn’s life are amongst the most vulnerable, and unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, many don’t survive them in Vietnam.

According to the World Health Organization’s latest data, the median rate of newborn mortality in Vietnam is 10.6 deaths per 1,000 live births.

By comparison, this number is 2.6 in the UK and 3.6 in the US.

To make a donation to Rob visit: