I guess I am a little overdue in writing this, but as I was retelling the story of my recent half marathon here in Haiti to a friend she said “this sounds like it needs to be a blog post.” So here it is.
Me and a few other teachers at Quisqueya had been training for this race since October(ish). Every run seemed to be a “hill run”, even thought the training calendar said hill runs were only to be done once a week, but….This is Haiti. As the weeks went by the runs got longer and harder down here in the heat, oh and the hills, but we managed to get the miles in…most of them.
The last two weeks of training were going to be over the Christmas vacation which Jesse and I would be spending in Florida with his family. A trip that couldn’t come soon enough and didn’t last long enough. I was looking forward to some nice runs in a more mild climate, but still sunny Florida with my running pal, but…This is Haiti and two days before were to fly out to our fantastic holiday Jesse had a motorcycle accident, severely damaging his foot and taking him out of race contention.
Off I went in Florida, continuing my training, alone. However, I found myself continuously looking behind me because Florida has gators and snakes and I wasn’t really looking to make any new friends. Somehow I fit in some good runs, including my long ten miler, where my running pal showed up with pretzels, water and lots of encouragement 🙂
We finished out vacation with lots of sun, time with family and trips to Target (unfortunately the Target trips had time restraints on them). The vacation had gone so great in fact that the night before we were set to return I remembered I had not yet registered for the race which was now three days away. Signing on I realized registration had been closed. Fortunately I sent off and email and got a quick response and a link to follow and sign up and all was well.
When the time came to pack our bags, well more of a organization of bags because I don’t think we ever unpacked, but such is the life; I definitely had some unsettled emotions about returning. Fortunately, I was greeted at the Port-au-Prince airport with one of my best and oldest friends, Leslie. She had arrived before us and was joining us for the race and a whirlwind weekend, in Friday, out Monday. After sufficient time waiting around in the parking lot for other staff to arrive, we finally made it home.
Jesse’s bike had been fixed by some miracle over the break and only had a few pieces of duc-tape and a missing mirror as mementos of the accident. The three of us dressed up and went out to The View for a nice dinner overlooking Haiti.
The drive out to Jacmel was uneventful (thank you Lord again for keeping us safe), I took a page out of my mothers book and read to everyone from the back seat to avoid looking at the road carved through the mountains of Haiti that can plummet one to an early death, literally at every twist and turn. When we arrived at Jacmel and registered for the race, Leslie immediately ran into the Caribbean Ocean as she had traveled in from snowy New York City. And who can resist when a bunch of your friends are doing a race, so Jesse registered as well, injured (possibly broken) foot and all. What the heck, we drove all this way!
I would love to say the race went off with out a hitch, but that would not only be boring, but would also be a blatant lie. Previous racers were upset for not getting paid their “race money”, even though they had illegally ran the race in the first place the previous year. They vowed to no allow this years race to take off. But we drove all that way so nothing was going to stop us (also the fact that we had no idea what was going on behind the scenes until after the race). All seemed to start ok, but then the scarcely “marked” course and lack of direction caused many wrong turns and frustration. About half way thorough I must have taken a wrong turn, ended up in town and took a moto taxi back to the point where I last got lost (altogether, about a mile and 30 minutes worth of confusion), I promised my driver just payment of 100 GDE if he showed up at the beach in an hour and was on my way.
At this point I was so frustrated between looking down at the road to avoid tripping or twisting my ankle and looking up to search for race signs that had turned over in the wind or fallen down all together, because who knew one piece of scotch tape probably wouldn’t hold up on a dusty tree and piece of cactus. But we drove all that way so I kept going.
Some way out, my friend Miquette, who I knew should have been WAY ahead of me, showed up behind me. She had also gotten lost. Ughh. At least she had been running with Jesse who was now with me :). Her training and strength drove her to continue hard and Jesse and I decided to walk a bit in an unsuccessful effort to regain feeling in our hips that was not only excoriating pain, but possibly also blinding. Leslie however had a great race and came back to see us at the end and make sure we found our way and eventually we did. I finished somewhere around 14 minutes and Jesse and Miquette did 17 or so…
At the finish we found out the race director was being detained in jail, the people who did the full marathon (most of which also got lost) had rocks thrown at them in protest, but at least there were coconuts and cold water. We snapped a few pics, got a few apologies and were out of there.
I was furious when it all first happened and clearly during the race, but the whole thing is sort of making its way behind me. I am glad I did it, we did get a free entry into next years race, but I am also glad it’s over.
Returning to our hotel we packed up, refueled with lunch and fresh juice and set out to hike to Bassin Blue, because we drove all this way, and its beautiful.
Leslie had a great trip and I am so excited I got to share this gem of an Island with her. I was a little frustrated with the race, but…This is Haiti and she had a blast. It was an event to remember for sure.