Running with Team MTM in Haiti

Just returned Monday (Feb 21st) from Haiti as part of a medical mission trip with Doctor Mark and 12 others including my youngest son Jacob.  The team all from Terre Haute visited Mountain Top Ministries located near the small mountain village of Gramothe just a few miles up from Petionville.  Traveling from a Monday to a Monday we worked in a medical clinic across from the school on Tuesday through Friday.  We were able to treat over 650 patients for those 4 days and had the experience of a lifetime.  We were also able to do some sight-seeing on Saturday afternoon and church with the village on Sunday. 

To keep my fitness up during these trips I try to walk the mountain each day instead of riding the truck or the 4 wheelers.  This time I ran some of the downhill and flat sections, but it is so steep up the climb I don’t even attempt to run that part.  Usually I get a heavy sweat going just walking up to the school and clinic.

I mentioned to Willem Charles who runs Mountain Top that maybe we could organize a run this year for the school kids, or at least the older ones.  While we didn’t have a run on a large scale, we did end up with a race of select high school students on Saturday morning.  I had the opportunity to meet 3 of the young men in the high school, Schneider, Mouse and Geom who are all outstanding students and leaders.  We walked down the mountain together at the end of the school day for them, and clinic day for me on a couple of occasions.  We had planned to race the mountain after school, but Schneider took a good fall practicing on the rocky run down to the creek, so no such luck.  However, he recovered in a couple of days so the three came and got me on Saturday morning early and we raced from the mission house about 2 ½ miles down the road to the creek, across and up the mountain to the school and clinic. 

The road is really rough for running with large rocks and plenty to dodge along the way.  Then the creek which is dry now is all rock bed.  The mountain itself is about 1 mile up with what I would guess is an average grade of 18% with steeper pitches at the top.   I was able to hang with the group down and across the creek and then we hit the hard climb.  I probably made it a ¼ mile up when Geom took off and left us in the dust.  Geom looks like a typical elite marathon runner who has a pure gift for running.  Schneider, Mouse and I had to walk at this point as fast as we could.  About ½ way up Schneider and I was able to run maybe 100 meters before going back to a walk.  We also ran the last 100 meters which is off the charts steep, but by then Geom had long finished.

After some good laughs and trash talking about the race the rest was over, and Schneider led us through a number of calisthenics and running drills at the school.  Schneider is a born leader who ran a mean gym class.  He obviously knew what he was doing, and the running drills were very similar to what Daniel Bretscher recommended for me.  We also did a number of all out sprints on the basketball court before it was over.  We then walked and down the hill and ran the creek bed and back up the hill to the mission house.  We had a blast the whole time and it was just a super positive start to the day, even if they did run me into the ground. 

We made plans to talk again at church the next day so I thought Sunday would just have a good hike in the afternoon.  I'll save the hike story for another post.  About 6:30 A.M. in the morning they were back at the gate and had recruited another friend for the morning workout.  Up out of bed, running shoes on and back out I went.  This time we ran up the steep hill to the main road and across.  Thankfully no mountain to run, but we did find some good hills across the main road to run.  We also did some uphill and downhill 100 meter sprints as part of the morning run.  We then headed back to a soccer field where Schneider led us in gym class and running drills for a good 30 minutes before we ran back to the mission home. 

We headed back to Indiana early Monday morning and I have to admit it was with plenty of reluctance that I left my new running team.  The good news is we are sponsoring all three of these young men to the Terre Haute Triathlon later in May.  Each will get a chance to leave their village for the first time and fly to the states for a week’s stay.  Team MTM will get a chance to compete in the triathlon as part of a team doing the run.

Will be interesting to see just how well the Team MTM running club from the school takes off.  Will this lead to something big that a lot of students want to be involved in, or a flash in the pan?  With a bit of sponsorship and encouragement for the students, I tend to think it will be something big.

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