To say running across an entire country was on my bucket list would be a lie. To say I regret doing it would be a bigger lie. This run became something more than I ever imagined. I have never felt such a sense of accomplishment as I did finishing the seven-day run and jumping into the ocean on the south coast of Haiti. I had never felt the actual meaning or purpose of a run until that moment. I can flat-out say right now that this was the most humbling and rewarding achievement of my life.
So, why did I sign up to run over 200 miles across an entire country? My personal reason takes me back to my grandma. She was a survivor of World War II (that tells you how tough and strong she is) and had the biggest heart in the world. She would not hesitate to help anybody in any way she could. In trying to continue her legacy, my amazing and beautiful wife and I are trying to use our gifts with endurance sports in helping others.
We have been a part of many organizations such as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the American Diabetes Organization, and Team PHenomenal Hope. We have helped fundraise, advocate, and create awareness for these organizations through endurance sports. This time we are assisting Work (formerly Team Tassy) with their goal of ending poverty in Haiti with good dignified jobs. This run aims to showcase the beauty of Haiti and its people to the world and raise funds to provide health care, job training, and education for children.
Coming into this run, I knew it would be a very tough race. Not only were we running across an entire country, but we also would face the terrain, the heat of a tropical climate, the busy markets along the course route, the traffic, blisters on our feet, keeping up with our nutrition, and the possibility of sickness. This was by far the most physically demanding seven-day challenge of my life and I’ve completed an Ironman and an ultramarathon in Brazil. From day one all the way to the finish, each day brought new challenges to all the runners. For example, our first day was a 34-mile run with the finish line up in the mountains at a school house. The school house had no running water, holes in the roof, no electricity, and an outhouse for bathroom facilities. After a 34-mile run with the last eight miles up a mountain, the last thing we wanted to do was sleep on the floor inside a mosquito net without getting a shower.
The reward didn’t come from accomplishing each run, but realizing why more than 40 people from across the United States and Canada gathered in Haiti. The reward came with realizing why 27 runners were putting their bodies through this grueling run across an entire country in the heat and overcoming big mountains and injuries along the way. We all had the same reason and that was for the people of Haiti. We wanted to give them a chance to be able to provide food for their families instead of sacrificing their health, their children’s education, and livelihood.
I have memories of the children coming to see us at the school house on the first day and playing soccer with us, memories of the families living in the landfill greeting us and showing their appreciation with handmade pins, children running alongside us for miles with big smiles on their faces, tears of joy from the parents who have the chance to put their kids through school, and so many more. They come to mind often and are the real reason this run was such a humbling, rewarding accomplishment.
Everyone has their own reasons why they run or participate in a race. Each of the 27 runners had similar wishes to benefit the people of Haiti and their own personal reasons for signing up. My own reasons are to help others with my love for endurance sports and to continue my grandma’s legacy. I will end this blog with a question from a famous ultrarunner; “When it’s your time, is the goal to leave a well-preserved body or do you want to really use it?”.