I'm a 31-year-old woman, who for the last 11 years has been running what our country calls "a man's race."
It all began when I wanted to join the national Haitian police force. I first started athletic training and a friend talked me running a semi-marathon. A new horizon opened up. I discovered my passion as a runner and for sports. While ultimately, I didn't make the police force, I began to train seriously. I wanted to challenge myself, to increase my speed, endurance and stamina. It's been more than ten years, and through diligence and commitment, I've gained considerable ground on the physical demands of this sport. It keeps me healthy, it keeps my spirits up.
But in Haiti, being a marathoner has pushed me to compete against a very different opponent: the status quo.
As a woman, running has set me apart. While I wear skirts to church, I have boyfriend, and I've lived the life of many young women, to be honest, most women my age are now married and raising their children rather than signing up for marathon races. Running, while not a big sport here in Haiti, is definitely not a "woman's sport."
As a result, I've had to endure critics, doubters, people who teased me--and even laughed--as I ran by in the streets of Port-au-Prince. People yell "Don't you have a husband to take care of?" or "Don't you have some dishes to wash?" I adopted a strategy: I focused only on what was in front of me. I know where I come from, I know what my goal is. I knew where I was going. I just kept moving straight ahead and dodging the cars and motorcycles that got in my way.
While it can be tough, I've been through worse. When the earthquake happened, it claimed my business, a little restaurant I named Chez Anne, after my favorite aunt. It was in the neighborhood and we made great food for many loyal patrons, many of which worked at the bank next door. Now all that is finished. Chez Anne no longer exists. So, I've been working on rebuilding my life, finding work, figuring out the next steps.
While the earthquake dust is settling, running keeps me going. Often, after a race, people continue to question my choice to be a marathon runner. I have a simple answer: This is what I do and I love what I do.
Over time, my neighbors have gotten used to my coming and going in jogging shorts and tanks tops. They have even started cheering me on. As a result, running has become more than a sport to me, but a way to break down social barriers that have limited women in athletics and in other ways here in Haiti. Whether I'm running in Haiti or the Dominican Republic, I have a bigger hope: to be a role model and teacher to aspiring female runners in my community. In November, I'm taking that hope with me to New York City, as a part of Team J/P HRO, to run in the largest marathon of its kind and help my country rebuild.
Please click here to view a video about my journey.