Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Most Beautiful Half Marathon

This is a guest post by Sister2.

I’ve spent the last five hot months in Thailand, training to run a half marathon in support of Room to Read, a non-profit that promotes literacy and gender equality by working with local partners to provide books/uniform/transportation/school fees, build schools and libraries, and encourage girls' participation in education.

My original plan was to race in the Phu Quoc Half Marathon in Vietnam on May 11th, but the cost of getting to Phu Quoc Island and the challenges of training while traveling through three different countries (not to mention the fact that it is “burning season” in southeast Asia, so going on a run means sucking down smokey oxygen) led me to change my plan and create my own race.

After my boyfriend (Eric) and I finished our semester teaching English in Thailand, we headed to Laos. Luang Nam Tha turned out to be the most perfect place for my “race.” We rented a motorbike the day before the run to measure out 13.1 miles around Luang Nam Tha, and found that the course we had in mind was exactly 13.1 miles. Perfect!

I woke up to a cool morning (so refreshing in southeast Asia) and walked to my start line in the middle of the town. Of course this wasn't an official race, just me running with Eric biking alongside, but I received some cheers and smiles at the start since runners in this part of the world are pretty rare and Eric and I are always a spectacle.

I turned out of town into a country road surrounded by rice patties and watermelon fields with the jungle-covered mountains surrounding them. Next was a turn into a small dirt road that wound through a few different villages where I passed by some schools – very basic structures with a blackboard, so I only really knew they were schools because of their signs outside.

"Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to the cost of an ignorant nation" (Walter Cronkite). And it turns out, the cost of a Room to Read library is only $5,000. Make your investment in a more intelligent world!
I turned off the dirt road to cross to the other side of the valley and was lucky enough to run into an unofficial support crew of seven adorable little boys on bikes. They mimicked the English words and phrases we called  out to them, which showed me how ready these kids are to learn. I waved goodbye to my support crew at the 10-mile mark (an old temple that was bombed in the '60s). They turned one direction to ride back to their village, and I looked towards my finish line.

I finished outside if the Luang Nam Tha secondary school in exactly two hours. Obviously I wasn't running to break any records, but I think I was smiling almost the entire run. It was such a beautiful course in a remarkable country that is full of smiling kids! My run inspired me even more to do what I can to give the children of Laos (and every country Room to Read works in) an opportunity to receive a quality education.

This was the first time I ran a race for a cause and what a race it was! I would absolutely recommend other runner to do the same.

And if you would like to donate to Room to Read (please do!), go here.