Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Uganda and a Boston Qualifier

Wow! What a weekend! First off the BIG news, I did at last receive a letter from the Peace Corps stating where I’ll be spending the next two years. Ready for this? Uganda! That’s right! Uganda. Leaving the first week of March. (for more info check out BBC News and this CIA World Factbook site) I’ll be working with AIDS awareness and Health/Sanitation. Where in the WORLD is Uganda you might be wondering (and secondly, is it safe there?) Uganda is in East Central Africa bordering Kenya, Rwanda, DR Congo, and Sudan. From the 1960s to the mid eighties there were vast economic hardships and many bloody civil wars that were fought, but since then they have instilled new government and have been a much, much more peaceful nation. (The peace corps #1 priority is to ensure the safety of the volunteers!!) 55% of the workforce there work for less than $1 a day and some 60% do NOT have access to clean drinking water. The AIDS epidemic reached it’s peak in the early ninety’s when an estimated 30% of the population was thought to have HIV/AIDS. Since then, Uganda has done a remarkable job through education and awareness programs to reduce that number to around 6% today!

My duties, to the best of my knowledge may include, but will not be limited to, I believe, more on the health/sanitation aspect of this field, including working with communities to develop clean water supplies as well as digging latrines.

The second piece of big news is that on Sunday I ran the Philadelphia Marathon and QUALIFIED FOR THE BOSTON MARATHON with a time of 3:09:50. (results) The cutoff is 3:10 which means I got in by 10 seconds!!! To think that I ran my heart out for 26.2 miles and it came down to the last 10 seconds!! That’s insane! What’s more insane is to think about being 10 seconds on the other side of that 3:10… Agghhh!!!

The weather was great. About 44 degrees at the start and finishing at about 52. Sunny and calm. The course was relatively flat w/ the majority of the hills in the middle of the race. For the first ½ of the marathon I tagged along with the 3:10 pace guy. This person runs the entire race w/ a stick w/ a sign on it saying what pace he’s running along w/ 3 balloons attached to the top of the stick. Someone should tell this poor guy that balloons aren’t exactly the most air resistant things in the world. Of course if they were helium filled, then they would make you lighter I guess… At about mile 12 I started to get antsy. I was feeling great at that point and wanted to just creep ahead a little bit. Besides, I love passing people so much it’s difficult to run a steady pace. I picked up the pace from 7:15 to about 7:05. Miles 14-20 were entirely down hill and at mile 20 you do a complete 180 and run back UPHILL the same route until you finish. In my mind I had divided the race up into 3 races: the first 10 miles, 11-18, and then 18-26. At home I have a down and back I train on that is 8 total miles. Once I got to mile 18 I just kept telling myself “down and back and you’re home” “Down and back and you’re home” “Finish strong” “You are ON PACE” “This is what you’ve trained so hard for” “This is your dream, your goal” “Don’t quit” “Don’t give up now” And there comes a point where you like pain. Where it’s your enemy. It is who you are fighting and who you are running against. Who will win?

At the turn around at mile 20, I was heading back. I thought I had the ‘pace guy’ by a good minute or so at least, but was sadly disappointed to see that he was only about maybe 30 seconds or so behind me… A cushion, sure, but I was running out of gas and it was all UPHILL the rest of the way. As much as I try to run a steady pace, in EACH marathon I have always slowed my pace way down at the end and I didn’t know if I could keep him behind me or not. He was the wall, the wave. He was also the enemy. If he passed me: disappointment. All that training, time and money I had invested. The miles seemed to double at that point. Surely they were mis-marked. I knew what a mile felt like and these last 6 weren’t miles they were entire counties!

As I ran, I saw my times slipping down to 7:27/mile but they were steady. I could hold that pace, and the incline wasn’t steep, but it was there. A few people were passing me at this point and I didn’t even care. Every few miles I could hear the dreaded pace guy yelling out to his band of followers “Come on guys, don’t give up now” “Just up this hill” I heard mothers telling their children “Look here comes a guy with some balloons. With each person that passed me I felt for sure it was pace guy. But I pushed on.

4 miles to go. That’s just back on my 8 mile route. Just run back to the house and it’s over. 3 to go. That’s a 5K. 21 minutes or so and that’s it. I wanted to look back. I wanted to stop at a water station and just look back but I wouldn’t allow myself. In previous marathons I would walk through the water stations at this point in the marathon to just rest for 20 seconds or so. I wanted to so bad! I told myself, “Brian, if you stop, you will lose. Just endure. If you stop he will catch you and you will lose. He’s RIGHT BEHIND YOU!” So I ran. 2 to go. TWO TO GO and I’m done. More people passed me but I latched on and dug in. Just 2 miles and you’ve accomplished what you set out to do 3 years ago when you started marathoning. Finally the 1 mile to go mark. I was still slipping but I knew it was very possible to make it. Now if pace guy passed me I would give absolutely everything I had to keep up. It’s a little pain but a lifetime of gain. It HAD to be done. I didn’t see the mile 26 mark but I knew I was close to finishing. The race ended at the Philly Art Museum, the same steps Rocky ran up and did his little dance on. A few hundred yards left and pace guy hadn’t passed me. I was sure I had it.

With about 100 yards to go I glanced to my R and saw him at my side. I could see the finish line clearly and could look a the clock and could SEE that I was going to make it and qualify. I did fend him off but it wouldn’t have mattered. I did it! I made it! I ran the race of my life and have accomplished one of the most sought after qualifing times in all of marathoning.

Like I said, it was quite a weekend!!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

It's official!! ***Uganda***

...leaving in early march. more to come...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

An Invitation is on it's Way...

OK, Now THIS is exciting!! An invitation is on it's way! In the mail! From the Peace Corps! To my house!! I'm dripping with anticipation!! In it contains the Peace Corps OFFICIAL invitation to participate in whatever country doing whatever project. I have only 10 days to either accpet the invitation or reject it and wait for another. Reasons for rejecting would be: house not sold, in debt up to my eyebrows, I'm affraid to fly over any major bodies of water including the Ohio River... That isn't to say that I'll be leaving in 10 days. The invitation could be for June, but here's what I know: This past week, the peace corps called me several times. We discussed many things from why I quit teaching (which I had already explained until i wanted to throw up in my interview) to the PCs policy about evangelizing (due to my religious beliefs and background). My response to the latter was that I intentionally joined the PC with the intent of NOT evangelizing after considering several other volunteer, faith based organizations including Mission Year. They had told me that they had a spot teaching English in Asia (that's all they tell you, they don't tell you what country at this point). They did say they would re-evaluate my application and on the following day they gave me these two options: Eastern Europe doing Community Development specializing in Troubled Adolescents and Teaching English; and Africa doing Health/Sanitization and Water Treatment. I consulted my sources: Jill Case (long long long time friend), Roger Williams (my global perspective friend), Chuck Shields (college roomie and Mr Useless Knowledge for $500 Alex) , Jennifer Megee (PCV in Haiti doing Health & Water Treatment), and God (I hope you know Him) Their answers varied. Reasons such as "Africa seems like the bigger 'need' because they don't have clean water supplies." "Where do you see yourself spending 2 years of your life." "Europe would be easy to travel around in if you were serving there." "Which type of work would you enjoy doing more?" After mulling it over and sleeping on it, I decided ultimately to rank Africa #1 and Eastern Europe #2 for a couple of reasons. I do believe that the basic human need of fresh water for sustaining life is a serious need in parts of Africa. I can see myself more in Africa than in Eastern Europe. Africa seems like more of the "Bush Experience" that you would think of when you think of the Peace Corps. Europe is somewhere that can be explored after the PC extent is done. So, the invitation is in the mail... We'll see what it says... On a side note: Went to Tennessee this weekend with Tania and Jen to visit the Nelsons. I also biked across Knoxville w/ Ashby who is going to run his FIRST MARATHON (Chicago) next year once he quits smoking and loses 40 lbs!! That's what I call setting a goal!!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

To Asia in January???

Got a call from the PC. It was from the placement office in DC. (so many abbreviations, so little time) They had a few more questions such as "Why did you decide to quit teaching?" "Do you understand that you may not have access to a place of worship that shares your religious beliefs", "Do you understand that the Peace Corps is a federal agency and does not encourage Evangelizing?" "Do you further understand that if you were to attend worship services, say Protestant services, for example, that you could alienate another religious group, say Catholics, to the extent that they may even ex-communicate you which would defeat your purpose of serving people in the PC?" From that I was told that they were looking to possibly place me in Asia where I would be teaching English. She also mentioned teaching in a primary school which I quickly said, "No thanks!" The thought of teaching Elementary school gives me flashbacks to "Kindergarten Cop" "Boys have a ..." never mind. I should know more by Friday, the placement officer said. Stay tuned!