On September 14th, I am attempting a 100 km (62 mi.) ultra-trail marathon. The event has a cut off time of 30 hours and a cumulative elevation gain of 5,200 meters (17,060 ft.) crisscrossing cabbage & pineapple farms, remote villages, mountain rivers, and then moves up into higher elevations of rugged jungle slopes and valleys at the base of majestic Mount Kinabalu in the heart of Borneo. The race is called, “The Most Beautiful Thing” and to understand why, you need to watch this promo video:
My first ultra event will be a HARD thing! I am doing this to raise money for students who have had a HARD life, but despite life circumstances have demonstrated high academic potential. Without help, the poverty of these students would keep them from reaching their academic potential. Septiani is one of these students – her parents and siblings were all killed by landslides in a 7.8 earthquake in 2009. View details on her story in this Cooperative Baptist Fellowship video:
Syaweli Saputra is another scholarship student who was given the opportunity through the Ruble International Education Initiative (RIEI) to study at Darlington School in Rome, Georgia, USA for his senior year. When he returned to Indonesia, he scored high enough on the national university entrance exam to earn a coveted seat at the prestigious University of Indonesia. He has just completed his course work in Public Health and graduated on August 30th. Syaweli and his family are highlighted in the following CBF video at the midway point:
In this video, you are introduced to Jan Williams, the founder of Ruble International Education Initiative. RIEI is our partner in facilitating the education of impoverished students. RIEI is the charity for which I am raising funds on this HARD 100 km ultra-trail marathon.
JOURNEY TO RUNNING
Dec. 26, 2004 is permanently etched in my memory – that was the day of the 9.1 earthquake and massive tsunami which struck off the coast of the northern tip of Sumatra, Indonesia. The engulfing Indian Ocean tsunami killed over 260,000 people, leveled homes, businesses and everything in its path; reaching Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, and Africa. It was a very HARD day. My work as a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Field Personnel quickly refocused from education to the relief and recovery effort in Aceh, the province on the northern most tip of Sumatra, almost 1,000 km from our home in central Sumatra. This was challenging work, both physically and emotionally, and it took its toll on everyone who responded to the disaster. No one can walk through hell and come out unscathed.
In March of 2007, we were shaken out of our house by 6.1 and 6.3 magnitude earthquakes two hours apart, directly underneath our mountain town in West Sumatra. This was followed by months of aftershocks as the next 500 km section of the Sumatra fault line began to release the tension built up over the past 200 years. Geologists anticipate a 9+ earthquake off the coast of West Sumatra in the near future. After seven months of unstable ground shaking, we made the decision to relocate to Penang, Malaysia for our family’s mental and physical health. It was a HARD decision as we had lived in Bukittinggi for nine years. I regularly return to Indonesia to facilitate and monitor projects in Sumatra. Living in Malaysia has allowed us to expand the scope of our work beyond education, community development, and disaster relief. Cindy now partners with regional NGOs in Malaysia to be an active force in anti-trafficking work, to promote human rights, and to prevent the domestic and sexual abuse of women and children. It has been a good move, though it was HARD to leave our home in Indonesia.
A few months after moving to Penang in 2007, I realized I needed to get in shape, get my cholesterol down, and live a healthier lifestyle. Running was a logical choice. I had run long distance track in high school with mediocre success. I can recall my early running route in Penang – a 4 km distance. At first, I struggled to make it to the 2 km turn-around point in 14 minutes, but with continued practice, I became a stronger runner. I ran my first marathon in Singapore in 2009 and completed it in 4:02:13. Not bad, but cramping around km 35 reduced me to walking and hobbling the last stretch.
The following year I ran the Singapore marathon again, but this time my training was interrupted by disaster response work for a 7.8 earthquake off the coast of Padang, West Sumatra, near where we previously lived (See Septiani’s video story above). The cramping started earlier this year and my finish time was a disappointing 4:32:01. More marathons, more cramping, but finally I achieved a sub 4 hour marathon.
RUNNING WITH A PURPOSE
In December I registered for The Most Beautiful Thing (TMBT). I signed up for what I know will be the HARDEST run/climb/walk of my life. I immediately embarked on nine months of HARD training. In April 2013, I ran a non-competitive Langkawi Island Ocean Marathon over a quite hilly course and for the first time completed a marathon strong, with no cramping!
This summer, I shifted my training from road miles to trekking up and down the jungle hills of Penang each week. Steadily I have gotten to be a stronger and more confident trail runner. Now I love the trails far more than road runs. It is refreshing and relaxing, near meditative. My weekly long run the past six weeks has been a 31 km (20 mi.) run/hike/run passing over the 2,500 ft. summit of Penang Hill. It takes me 5 to 6 hours to complete the route, but now I feel strong at the end. This is only 1/3 of the TMBT distance. Will my training be enough come event day? Will I be able to master the hydration and nutrition intake on my first ultra event to keep my body running for 20+ hours? Will my feet hold up, no crippling blisters? Those questions can only be answered on race day, but I am resolved to cross the finish line! An avid, but aging competitor, my goal is to be near the front of the pack. You can follow this blog for more details on my training and updates as the start date approaches on September 14th.
MY CHALLENGE TO YOU
As I do this HARD thing, would you to consider making a donation of $1 (or an amount of your choosing), to Ruble International Education Initiative for each trail kilometer I complete on The Most Beautiful Thing? Together we can enable bright students with HARD lives, who have demonstrated their ability to work HARD in school, to reach their educational potential. Education empowers! Education is the best way to empower communities to break the cycle of poverty. It is a win-win endeavor. Join me in the HARD work of empowering students through education to gain the skills needed to help their families and their communities in this developing region. I ask you to reflect and graciously consider making a donation to RIEI. Stretch yourself to empower an impoverished student and together we can transform The Most Beautiful Run into the most beautiful gift of education and a future for talented, bright, young people living HARD lives.
Should you accept this challenge, donations can be sent to:
P.O. Box 1036
Rome, GA 30162
Please make checks payable to RIEI*
* RIEI is a registered 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization. EIN #26-1525304
For more information, please write to email@example.com or call (706) 802-8307