Just in time for a 100k race in Arizona in two weeks, I’m going to Cuba! My time away from sticky jungle has been too long, and more importantly it’s time to give back and explore internationally once again. This trip feels like a mini-version of my time living and teaching in Thailand because service is at its core.
I’m going with One World Running, an organization that’s been going to Cuba, Haiti, Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Cameroon for years, all in the name of running shoes.
One World Running was started by the brilliant journalist, world-class runner and witty eccentric Mike Sandrock, “Rock” as his runner friends call him. He was racing a marathon in Cameroon in 1986 and noticed a local runner racing in a pair of broken sandals. And the local runner beat him! Moved by the palpable privilege gap, after the race, Rock gave his fellow competitor his shoes. An idea brewed.
Rock knew there was too much passion and love and need in the sport of running to not do something about the global need for running shoes. Fast forward a few decades and add Ana Weir, a travel, Spanish and everything-in-between expert, and One World Running has donated thousands and thousands of shoes to people around the world.
This trip to Cuba is unique in that we are giving shoes to elite Cuban runners (think sub 2:30 marathoners). The other trips have a broader focus, giving thousands of shoes to large high schools.
It’s also unique in that we put on a race for the elite Cuban field of runners, comprised of teams from each province. The race takes place on the infamously steep road called “La Farola” in the ecological beauty of a city, Baracoa. This is in the province of Guantanamo, just north of Guantanamo Bay that’s infamous for other reasons.
Before the Cuban Revolution (1953-59), the only access to Baracoa was by sea. Then in the 1960s, the 120km La Farola road was built from Guantanamo to Baracoa, through the winding mountains. It’s now seen as a showcase of the strength of the revolution. I hear it’s really steep…
To get a better feel for this adventure, read a piece on last year’s version of the trip, with Hoka elite ultrarunner Mike Wardian, in Competitor.
And say tuned for another pre-departure update, and/or Cuban history factsheet. Learning is fun!
In the meantime, running 25 miles tomorrow and skiing 20 miles on Sunday. Gotta get it all in before the world implodes.