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JALYN DEVEREAUX JUST FINISHED HER TRACK & CROSS COUNTRY CAREER AT OHIO DOMINICAN UNIVERSITY. THERE, SHE RAN MOSTLY MIDDLE DISTANCE RACES, SPENT HER SUMMERS AS A COUNSELOR AT THE MYERS RUNNING CAMP, AND PROBABLY NEVER CONSIDERED WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE TO LITERALLY RUN ACROSS A COUNTRY. THIS WINTER, ALL THAT CHANGED. AS PART OF THE ORGANIZATION KNOWN AS WORK, SHE TOOK PART IN THE FUNDRAISING RACE RUN ACROSS HAITI. HERE, JAYLN SHARES HER EXPERIENCE WITH US.
Day one. Thirty-four miles. Cap-Haïtien to Plaisance. This was the start of the 2018 Run Across Haiti, a fundraiser for the organization, WORK, that helps families in Menelas, Haiti pull themselves out of poverty through dignified jobs and access to healthcare and education. This was also about to be the longest run thus far in my life, a feat I was about to accomplish THREE TIMES during the “race.”
When I was accepted to this run, I had only raced a 6K. I ran my first marathon in January and then capped out my longest run before the event at 30 miles along the Alum Creek Trail. Not going to lie, thinking about running my longest run on day one was pretty freaky. I ended up being all right; I ran solo and we climbed 2000 ft. over the first mountain range. We ran through markets and I got stopped by a family in the mountains and we exchanged names and shook hands. It was tough and pretty hot, but the views and the people were beautiful.
Every morning, we woke up at 3:30 a.m., ate breakfast at 4:00, and started the run at 5:00. This was our way of attempting to beat the heat as much as possible. I gained a running buddy on day two with a lovely girl named Jacquie. We ended up running together for the middle five days, something I truly needed especially on day 4, when we ran 36 miles from Gonaïves to Saint Marc. This was the most miserable of all days: absolutely no shade, temperatures reaching 104oF, and about 13 miles of straight rice paddy fields. It sucked. I’m not sure I would have made it without having Jacquie there to suffer with me.
At that point, I thought "Never again," but then Haiti has a wonderful way of reeling you back in. On the off day, we drove into Menelas to meet our families and driving through the country, the strange joy it brings me returned. I can’t describe what it is that has grabbed ahold of me. Maybe it’s the bustling, beautiful people, or the smells, all the crazy sounds, random cries from roosters and goats. I’m not sure. I don’t know if I’ll ever know, but something keeps bringing me back. This propelled me through the final two days to finish: 27 miles to Port-au-Prince and 52 into Jacmel.
Somehow, this previous mid-distance runner fell in love with the final run: a double marathon to the finish line. We started at 1:00 a.m. and the first 20 miles or so sucked because I had knee pain and the air quality around Port-au-Prince was rough, but at about mile 23, we began our 4000 ft. ascent and the sun began to rise. This is about where I ended up being alone, but this was also where I fell in love with running all over again. The summit was the most beautiful of the whole week. The people were the friendliest I had ever encountered, kids running with me, everyone smiling and saying hello. The run was magical. Reaching the city was a little stressful, but when I reached the end and ran into the Caribbean Sea, I did it. It was over. I just became the youngest person to run across Haiti.
It’s been 2.5 weeks since the run has ended and I still don’t comprehend what we just accomplished. Over 200 miles over seven days. We did it for ourselves, but most importantly we did it Pou Ayiti.