Traveling abroad to work as a WorldTeach volunteer doesn’t mean giving up your hobbies from back home. Liz, a WorldTeach Marshall Islands volunteer, kept up her New Year’s Resolution of running even far from home, and found some unexpected fun and companionship in the process. Read on for her humorous take on the experience.
For several months I started running on the causeway to keep me sane. I decided to run with the goal of training for a half marathon when I get home. Ironically I just read the post in which my new year’s resolution last year was to start running seriously. Better late than never?
While I’ve never enjoyed running per se, I savor the endorphins and relief that follow when the actual running has ceased. So my running is serving the threefold purpose of exercise, a hobby and stress relief. Then I heard there was a cross country fun run in honor of Liberation Day. Now it could serve as patriotism for my host country! (Marshallese 4th of July but replace red white & blue with green, orange and white and drinking and fireworks for relay races and games.
So I signed up [hypothetically of course since the idea of preparing a list of names before an event here is absurd] to have a tangible goal to work towards…sort of a half/half marathon at around 6 miles. The race would start on Guegeegue and end on Ebeye, about six miles on the increasingly damaged causeway.
The day arrived and I found myself on a bus with the other white meat here, the SDA teachers as well as most of the Filipinos on island and some Marshallese students who were curiously wearing flip flops. There were a few things that were amiss about the planning of this race. I was told I had to sign up in person. So I went into town and found the table where I was supposed to do this. The lady flipped to a new page in her notebook and wrote the title cross country with my name underneath. I had hastily traversed from my island only to find out I was the first to sign up. The race was to be at 3:00 in the afternoon—the hottest part of the day. Clearly whoever decided this has never ran before.
I knew there were prizes for the race but my goal was to finish and to run the entire thing. We began and like the true tortoise I am I began the race at the exact pace I kept the entire time, I didn’t even feign some sort of starting mojo. Sure enough within minutes those around me had already wilted and were walking including most of my competition in the other ribelle girls.
I kept it up, lamenting everything silently the whole time. When I run everything seems to become ten times more dramatic. I’ve managed to capture an actual transcript here between the different parts of my body when I run:
Brain: “This is great! You’re doing it! Doesn’t it feel great!”
Legs: “Shut up you!”
Heart: “Are we there yet?”
Sweat glands: “It’s my time to shine, watch out y’all!”
Brain: “—expletives—I’m over this. Stop running. Do it. Stop now. NOW, I say. Why aren’t you listening?! You’ll regret this!”
Ankles: “Oh yea this was a brilliant choice. Let’s run on an uneven landscape of sharp coral shit. And while we’re at let’s run through a minefield for kicks.”
Brain: “Shut up ankles, you’ve done this before. And really you don’t have a choice because I said so”
Sweat glands: “Did you drink enough water? I think I’m gonna clean house and get rid of all it for ya, don’t worry, I got this. Plus it’s probably weighing you down.”
Knees: “Oh hey guys. She’s really doing this huh? “
Arms: “Stop holding me at this awkward angle. You’re supposed to propel yourself not dangle me here like that.”
Brain: “I mean, who would really notice if you stopped for a spell? No one is around…”
Heart: “If you must keep going you better take it slow.”
Eyes: “I can’t see! Where am I? Why isn’t she wearing sunglasses!”
Brain: “You chose this. MUST. KEEP. RUNNING. Besides, someone will find you if you faint in the jungle…”
Eventually I made it to Dumptown the first village on Ebeye. Brittany and Daniel were there holding humorous signs. I think I tried to smile but I was worried it would zap my energy. Then I began the final portion to the end of Ebeye. To my surprise the street was lined with people all cheering for the runners. I wasn’t sure the Marshallese would care/understand/pause their lives to support the runners. When I run on the causeway they usually give me amused/perplexed/annoyed looks because I’m either 1. a bwebwe ribelle crazy white person 2. running a long distance with nothing chasing me 3. in the way of their pick-up truck. I’d also been worried kids would get in the way (like how they do with cars) and I would be too tired to move and run them over slowly with my giant feet. I recognized students, teachers and employees from all over town. Kids held out their hands so I could give them high fives. I was holding a piece of coral in my hand that I grip when something hurts so I gave the kids fist bumps instead. Then one kids tried to jack my iPod and I remembered where I was. Ejellok fist bumps.
Towards the end there was only one more girl in front of me who was legitimately my doppelganger. There should really only be one tall white girl on this island and I was here first. I alternated between wanting to be her friend and wanting to beat her. I’d briefly passed her but towards the end I had no more energy to entertain thoughts of a final show down. And honestly I thought I was fourth and wouldn’t place at that point. My mantra was liz, finish the race before you die. She was walking on and off and I just kept chugging along, content with whatever outcome occurred. At the finish line she had about 20 seconds on me.
I finished, held my hands up in exhausted glory, high fived some randos and then found out I was second of the 14 girls. Sweet sweet victory of the heavens! (Granted some of these girls weren’t wearing shoes. Seriously, the Marshallese are hard core. Running with shoes? Amateur hour.)
I was so drunk off endorphins that when one of the other SDA girls finished we took off our shoes and went swimming in the E-coli lagoon. I didn’t even care. I was hot. I was tired. I was happy.
I won $75 which I’d decided ahead of time (if I won anything) it would go to helping pay back the airfare for a scholarship opportunity some of the students had just gotten. Bizarro Liz overheard me mention it to someone else and handed me $50 because she wanted to help too. Friend?
½ marathon, you’re next!