Philly Tribe member Jessica Wayashe is about to tackle a 230 mile ultra marathon, running across Haiti. Below, she details the race, her training, and all the work it took to get to this point. Good luck Jess!
February 16, 2018: Today, I fly from Philadelphia to Miami. From Miami, I’ll fly to Cap Haitien, Haiti with a group of 30 other runners and a staff and crew of about 45. The staff and crew are there to support the 30 runners on a 230-mile trek across the entire country. We will climb up mountains, run through crowded markets, sleep in local school houses and meet some of the beautiful families we are there to serve in Menelas, Haiti. They call this trek, the Run Across Haiti.
The Run Across Haiti started 4 years ago. Ian Rosenberger, the founder of the non-profit organization Work, formerly known as Team Tassy, had traveled to Haiti to help in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 230,000 people. In his time there, he saw first hand the devastation that swept over the country and met a young man, named Tassy.
Ian came back to the states, and while motivated and inspired from his recent experience in the country, decided to create Team Tassy. Team Tassy’s mission would be to help accompany individuals in the community of Menelas, Tassy’s hometown, out of poverty through providing good, dignified job opportunity and training. In order to get the most attention and gain awareness about this newly formed non-profit, Ian and a group of people decided they’d run across the entire country.
It was only last March that I came across the promo video for this event. I was in a rabbit hole of watching November Project videos when Team Tassy’s (now Work) video came up at suggested content. After I watched, I was hooked. I was hyped about the idea of challenging myself to not only run this thing, but learning more about Work and their mission to help others. See, back in college, I had discovered my love for humanitarian and volunteer work. At High Point University, I was a Track and Field athlete and member of Kappa Delta Sorority. Through the numerous team and sorority volunteer events, to eventually becoming my sororities philanthropy chair for our largest annual charity event, I discovered myself being drawn to places that allow me to learn and help other people. After I graduated, I combined my loves of running and helping other people by signing up for my first marathon, the 2013 Boston Marathon, as a charity runner. If my legs can create movement, they can certainly support one, so why not put purpose to pavement. Due to the tragedy that year, I came back to run Boston in 2014, again as a charity runner. I guess you can say this type of thing is my jam!
The Run Across Haiti requires an application submission. The folks at Work ask questions on your application to you decipher 3 things: 1) running experience, 2) fundraising experience and 3) your openness to learning about Haitian culture. Before I applied, I took a few months to sit on WHY I wanted to run across Haiti. I needed time to do research like educating myself about the organization to see if it was a cause I could truly get behind, learn about the logistics of how they conduct this cross-country run and take mental checks to be sure I wasn’t jumping into it because I was at a cross-roads with my career. I knew it’d mean nearly 6 months of training and pushing my body, physically and mentally, to its limits. So, if I was going to do this, I needed to have my mental, physical and spiritual self sound and ready to commit.
So far, I’ve had an incredible experience with Work. Before I even applied, the staff was always available to take my calls or emails and answer my many questions. They connected me with runners from years past so that I could get their insight and advice on the experience. Before, but especially after you apply and leading up to the day you take off, multiple team calls are conducted so we can chat about nutrition, training, gear, race day and travel logistics, etc. Runners are from all over the USA and Canada, and I am the only one representing November Project and Philadelphia (ANY TAKERS FOR NEXT YEAR!?!)
Training for this Run Across Haiti requires a lot of back-to-back long runs. Work gives you an option of working with a coach, or following your own plan. I just took a training plan from a gal who was athletically similar to me from the run last year and did it on my own. I started my training September 2017, on Labor Day weekend. In January, you get up to 60/65 mile weeks. Through all the training, I learned SO much about myself as a distance runner. I started off going through weeks of super low energy and just crashing and sleeping all day after my long runs. I wasn’t recovering as quickly as I wanted to and it was because I didn’t have my nutrition down. By the middle of December I had FINALLY learned what works for me. I need to eat A LOT of food 2-3 days before long weekends of back-to-back runs. I need to stay away from fresh vegetables and eat as early and as often as I can once I’m on the road. I was able to bounce back and not need naps once I learned about how my body was reacting to my nutrition plan.
Now that the day is here, my game plan is to start SLOW. I have it in my head hat the first two days out there are going to really set the tone for how the rest of my week is going to go. I trained at an average of 9:45/mile on my long runs, but because I will be running heavy mileage back-to-back, I’m going (to try!) to start around 11 minute miles. I’ll start fueling between miles 2-4, and I’ll adjust as needed as we go through the week.
Here is what the week looks like:
DAY 1 – 32 miles
DAY 2 – 13 miles
DAY 3 – 20 miles
DAY 4 – 36 miles
DAY 5 – 20 miles
DAY 6 – OFF
DAY 7 – 26 miles
DAY 8 to the FINISH – 52 miles
We will start every morning by 5 or 6AM, with the exception of our last day, when we start just after midnight to finish a double marathon. Before we take off we have a team breakfast where we will talk about the mileage and terrain we will be crossing for that day. We must maintain a 14-16 mile pace (depending on the day/elevation gain) otherwise, you will be picked up by truck and brought to where the run ends that day. This is to ensure runner safety since markets can get very crowded (there are 10 million people that live in just the 230 stretch we run across) and we will be facing temperatures of high 80’s – low 90’s.
Starting each day at the 10k and for every 5k until the end of that days’ mileage, every runner will have access to a truck that will keep our nutrition and hydration. We can choose to run with or without vests for hydration and nutrition, but the trucks are there for us if we don’t want to carry all of our things or if we need to refill on something. The trucks will also house our day packs, which we are encouraged to include extra nutrition, running gear, fresh socks and running shoes that are a half size larger than what we normally wear (for swelling).
Most days, the runners should be finished up by noon. Afterwards, we will meet over lunch as a team, then we have free/recovery time and the team dinner before we start again the next morning. Day 6 of our trek is really special. We will be spending our day in Menelas meeting the families we have been fundraising for.
I am both incredibly excited, anxious and proud of myself for finally being here. A lot of things needed to happen without a hitch to get me in a mind-focused and body-healthy state. Yes, I’ve dealt with some uncomfortable pains but other than the bum knee I still have from a car accident a month ago, I am in a really, really good place. If I could share advice to anyone training for something, it would be to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Yes, training plans are great tools to use, but I suggest only as a guide. If you worked late, and were so busy you skipped a meal, it’s probably not a great idea to then go for that scheduled 10 mile run on your training plan. Learn to adjust when you need to. Only you know what kind of stress, physically or mentally, your body can endure. It can be easy, especially for us November Project folk, to get swept up in this culture of showing up all of the time, 2 or 3 days a week, every week, for the entire year. Not to mention all the races that come with it. It’s ok to push yourself, but there are healthy limits. And only you know what those limits are. Example: I’m probably going to take at least a month off to recover after this run. When my body is ready to return to a competitive state, my next goals are to run the Boston Marathon as a qualified runner and do some sort of run through the Swiss Alps (taking suggestions!)
Last but not least, I hope you follow along with my instagram while I’m on this run of a lifetime – @jesswayashe. All of the running this team has done is going to finally be put into place. And I’ll quote my teammate, Jalyn, who beautifully depicts exactly how I feel:
“All the support we have received is finally going to be implemented. These next 10 days are to create an atmosphere for hope and promise. As we are challenged daily by the human body, we will be a visual representation of the sacrifice we are willing to give in order for everyone to have the chance that they deserve in this world. Over the next ten days, I hope you can see how beautiful Haiti is. I hope you can see the potential in these communities. Most importantly, I hope you see the humanity there, the hospitality.”
The people of Haiti and their country, I am told, are beautiful. It is not a place to be feared or pitied and I cannot wait to experience it for myself.
Thank you for your support, and please continue to send your thoughts, love and prayers. Not just for me, but to the amazing team, staff and crew that will join me along in this experience of a lifetime.
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