While in Port au Prince I was lucky enough to stay in a real building with running water, electricity, and food. This building was protected from the masses of hungry Haitians by a concrete wall and large steel door. Whenever I felt fortified enough internally I would venture outside of our walls with my teammates to bring food, and what hope we have due to our Lord Christ, out to the Haitians.
Several teammates were college students from around the US who I just met when I arrived at the Apparent Project guest house. Thankfully, they were runners, as many friends and family donated $900 toward our relief efforts which required me to run 9 miles while in Haiti. I did this by running 2.5 miles four mornings while I was there. So as I was saying the college kids helped me for though I was 10 years their senior they were more knowledgeable about how to run in HAITI. They knew that 6am is a good time to start (before it is 90 degrees out)and by 6:30am it is too hot and the roads are crowded with tap taps (trucks converted into taxis).
After exiting our gate, we would take a left up the hill on the river bed like roads, and continue up hill at a 11 min mile pace for about 1 mile. Then turn left at a pile of rubble or a corn row or a goat. We would weave in and out of these hilly roads and then after another 1/2 mile we would turn onto the main road (which was just busier and full of tap taps and vendors). My guides would point out churches, schools, and mass graves.
To avoid the vendors (on the 2 foot dirt curb) or the tap taps competing for the one lane but coming both directions, we would often run on the only concrete curb we could find (a four inch precipice). My deft running partners, always ahead of me would jump onto this four inch wide path and run straight and sure and then hop over this toxic puddle and that pile of rubbish, dash around a vendor or some school children (to each we said, "Bonjou."). I'd always follow obediently. At times we turned heads in our tight running tanks and short shorts, and sometimes kids teased and ran with us in flip flops.
One of my running partners told me of a time when she was running up hill in her Nike gear and how a Haitian woman overtook her running in flip flops with a full basket of plantains on her head. In other words, the fact that you can even go running for fun means you are wealthy as I believe this woman was running for some other purpose than fun. Running in Haiti was a lot of fun for me and a lot of work but it was like all things in Haiti, it reminded me how thrilling it is this live and how blessed I am to have shoes.
Haiti might be a place to run to or with next. For you or for me. But since you are American, and you have the wealth and health to go running, get out and run. Even if that just means figuratively. The world needs you in some way to exit your gated community and hike up the steep dirt hills.
This week I was lucky enough to run on paved streets in the mid-80s of my California suburb and tomorrow I get to test my prowess in a local 10k race (unheard of in Haiti). Each step I hope to remember a few of the miles I ran through the streets of Port au Prince, with Ali, Molly, and Luis, and a few smiling Haitian children. I think I might miss the precipice, the rubbish, the goat, the obstacle course of Haiti somehow made me feel alive.