Finally, I’m considering the possibility of taking a team of dancers to Ouanaminthe, Haiti to lead a hip-hop & break dance camp for a week. I will share more about this opportunity in the coming weeks.
Many blessings and thanks,
Hello my name is Mark. I was one of the participants and helped with some of the organizing in the Inaugural Ouanaminthe Haiti marathon. I have been running for the past 12 years, primarily distance. I have run 16 marathons and this would be my 9th ultra marathon.
It was a very warm Thursday afternoon. The date was August 6th 2009. My phone rings; it's my running partner Martha. “Did you not get my texts?? I have this crazy idea! I want to run a marathon in Haiti and I want you to run it with me.” The race would ultimately be a fund raising tool for a school in this city of 100,000. They have had 20,000 people recently relocate from Port Au Prince after the earthquake.
What a unique opportunity to do something no one has ever done before. Run a marathon, okay an ultra marathon, in a developing country, who could you say no to this? From the time we decided to do this event, till the morning of the race, about a year and a half had gone by and many things have happened to this very poor country. They have experienced a devastating earthquake, an outbreak of Cholera and political unrest. Our 7 athletes and families did not feel quite as secure as they did when they first signed up for this.
The race course consisted of four 7.5 mile loops, from the center of town out to the country and back. The streets in the town were cobblestone, and the rest were dirt with some hills. There were three aid stations with bottled water on the course. The weather at the start of the race was overcast and 75 degrees, giving way to sun shine and upper 80's. This is an island in the tropics with lush green fields and mountain views at the far end of the course. This is truly the most scenic course I have ever run in the month of January. There were 22 athletes in all, 15 of which were Haitian. The race was won by a young man named Stephane. For his hard work he received a first place medal and $100. Our hopes are that one day soon we will be able to continue Stephane's education in the United States . There was an awards ceremony the evening of the race. There was also very positive feedback from the community about the event. We are in the planning stages for the "2nd Annual Ouanaminthe, Haiti Ultra Marathon" -with a marathon option.
This was truly a unique life changing experience to have traveled to a foreign land, run an ultra marathon with my best friends, and make new ones along the way
A special thanks to Martha, this experience has touched my heart and in a way changed my life.
The walk to the start took about 15 minutes and allowed us to warm up. I was feeling good. My achilles and left calf were tight but not too sore today. This stayed consistent throughout the marathon but never got any worse. That was good.
We wished all the Haitians good luck ‘Bonne chance’. Two were wearing deck shoes, one had flat bottom Keds, several wore soccer shoes and the rest had some level of running shoe. All wore basketball shorts that were almost knee length. They were all excited. By everyone was ready and we were off.
The Haitians started fast but a big group soon settled into a 9 – 9 ½ minute mile pace. By mile 2 our group was split. Jerry and Laurie were out front with the Haitians followed by Dorothy and I. We still had them in sight but have lost sight of the group behind us; Mark, Martha, Jacob and Andy.
Half way around the 1st loop I was in the exact situation I didn’t want to be in; running alone in
There was only one time when I was a little concerned, but that was because I’m not yet comfortable in this environment. A woman and man were coming down the street towards me. She was yelling something in Creole. I believe it was to someone behind me but she was looking in my direction. He was following a little behind her and holding something that was dragging along the ground. As they got closer I realized he was holding a machete and the tip was dragging along the ground. The machete is a primary tool for them to do yard, field and other work. I’m just not used to people carrying them down the street.
As we ran many of the children would yell ‘Blanco’ and all the children in the area would come running because ‘Blanco’ meant ‘White’. Apparently they rarely see white people and they seemed to enjoy it for the novelty. That happened throughout the race and whenever we walked around town. We were all running good but at a slow, comfortable 12 minute mile pace. I was fine with that. I was enjoying the experience and didn’t see the need to push. I was surprised that everything was going so smoothly. All my concerns about last night’s changes were unjustified. Everything was fine.
We caught the Haitian I had run the 1st loop with about ¾ of the way around the 2nd loop. His calf was severely cramping. I had noticed he wasn’t drinking enough when we ran together and gave him ½ a water bottle then. He wasn’t going to be able to run much further. Hopefully all the Haitians were not having the same problem.
Mark, Martha and Jacob said they didn’t see the water stop at the end of the 1st loop so I said I’d show it to them at the police station/play ground. When we got there the table and all the water was gone. We then noticed that the children in the playground all seemed to have water bottles. Haitians generally drink water from small packages about the size of a sandwich bag, so we knew those must be our water bottles. Now starting our 3rd loop I was a little concerned. What if all the water stations were out of water? We were also heading away from town and there wouldn’t be stores to buy water (none of us had any money, anyway).
We were now walking some. Jacob wanted to start a run/walk. I didn’t mind and was still concerned about the water. About two miles out of town, Hughes came by on a motorcycle and went to get supplies. After that all the water stations were stocked and water wasn’t an issue anymore. Even the police station stop was restocked.
This was Jacob’s first marathon and he was now digging deep. He was a real trooper and just kept pushing forward. The lead Haitian was Stephen, who had impressed us all when we met Thursday. He passed us at the 1st water station on our 3rd loop. Two other Haitians were close behind. Jerry and Laurie met up with us at around the 2nd water station. Dorothy had run with them for just a short time. We met up with her at the police station. She had been running with the oldest Haitian. They both spoke some Spanish and communicated a little.
Our last 5 miles were; run a mile then walk a mile, which seemed to work best for Jacob. At mile 25 Meredith (Jacob’s wife) showed up and was able to run the last mile with him. It was a great experience for us all to see him achieve his goal. After completing the marathon Jacob and I jumped on a Willio’s motorcycle and headed home – no reason for more. Martha and Mark found Andy and finished with him.
This was a great experience. It was an amazing group and everyone got along even with the challenges we faced. A lot of the talk on the way home was what to do now that we’ve had the ‘Haitian’ experience. Jackie mentioned she wants to help Stephen get into a US College. Martha, Meredith and Christy will surely continue their aid to the schools and orphanage. Hope Chest, Tom’s organization, will start helping manage the orphanage. The rest of us will just need to figure our next steps. We had a very good beef stew and heard about the finish from Jerry and Laurie, who were already cleaned up. Stephen was the new Haitian ‘Rock Star’ for winning the race. I was in bed by resting but didn’t sleep well. I was cramping. Don’t know why???
This was a great experience. It was an amazing group and everyone got along even with the challenges we faced.
A lot of the talk on the way home was what to do now that we’ve had the ‘Haitian’ experience. Jackie mentioned she wants to help Stephen get into a US College. Martha, Meredith and Christy will surely continue their aid to the schools and orphanage. Hope Chest, Tom’s organization, will start helping manage the orphanage. The rest of us will just need to figure our next steps.
We had a very good beef stew and heard about the finish from Jerry and Laurie, who were already cleaned up. Stephen was the new Haitian ‘Rock Star’ for winning the race. I was in bed by resting but didn’t sleep well. I was cramping. Don’t know why???