Thursday, December 1, 2011

My 100 Mile Adventure in the Cayman Islands

I had the opportunity to run 100 miles in theCayman Islands and to meet some extraordinary people. The experience is one I will treasure for the rest of my life. The man who organized this event, James Murray, and his girlfriend, Lauren, are among the nicest, most gracious people I have ever met. They showed me around their beautiful island, from it's crystal clear blue waters and white-as-snow sand to it's delectable cuisine.

My first impression of Cayman was that it was alive, full of gusto and energy. Cars were honking, the sun was ablaze in the blemishless eternity-blue sky, tourists were going this way and that. The place had a musical pulse, a syncopated rhythm of time and energy where even the most mundane things - a wall, a corner building, the lamp post - came to life in unexpected ways. A splash of color here, movement there. Oh, look an iguana crossing the road! And is that a parrot in the trees? My heart skipped a beat faster just to keep up.

To run in the Cayman Islands was a joy. Even more than that, it was life-changing (that's no exaggeration). But, when you attempt something of this magnitude, the results usually are life-changing. Not that I haven't run 100 miles before. I've stabbed at the distance five times before, and each time has been meaningful, shaping me little by little and helping me grow more and more. But, I've never done anything on this level before. The purpose behind A Crazy Idea - as the project was lovingly called - was to benefit the Cayman Island Diabetes Association.

Diabetes runs in my family. My dad has it. My aunt has it. I am at risk for diabetes. It is sort of the unspoken epidemic in Cayman, and indeed, the United States as well. There is no cure for diabetes, but there is certainly hope for management of it. Through patient education, the appropriate use of medications, and lifestyle alterations, including the incorporation of sensible exercise and a balanced diet, diabetes can be managed effectively. Our goal was to be a part of that education process, to bring diabetes to the public consciousness and get people on the island thinking and talking about their health. No one wants to be told they are eating the wrong foods and that their lack of exercises is killing them. But, these are truths we cannot afford to ignore.

Our message had to be bold. Running 100 miles is pretty bold, I think. And we got the attention of the local media - the newspaper, social media, and radio stations. Dozens of people came out to see us off. It was quite an event! Some people stayed up with us all through the night, pacing us, getting us food and drink and anything else we needed during the run. As for myself, I had a blast. I ran with Steve, a lawyer in Cayman who offered to write a letter of commendation to the dean of my law school. Steve ran by my side in flip flops into the wee hours of the night. A spectacular guy!

I ran with Sarah, a tough and energetic woman who kept me going through the most trying parts of the journey. We sang the entire soundtrack to "Sister Act" before moving on to Disney songs. She would make a strong, strong ultrarunner herself. She has the right stuff. There was also Adam, who came on the scene with a smile and energy that proved infectious. He ran by my side through the night and I felt good just having him with me.

Not once did I feel any negative energy out there. All good vibes, baby! People were cheering along the route. Cars were honking. It was a big party! When the run did get tough - and it did get tough - I was able to look to my companions for strength. At certain points in the run, the heat got to me. Temperatures reached into the 100s and the humidity was near 80%. But, the overall experience was never unpleasant. Even though I was having a hard time, I thought about all the people that were counting on me. I thought about James, who was just ahead of me, fighting his own battle. I continued on.

The final miles were a frenzied blur of excitement. It seemed as if the whole community had come out to see us finish. The cheering carried me through to the finish line, despite my aching legs. I hugged James and my entire crew. It was an awesome feeling. I can't help but feel that we made a real difference out there, that we inspired people to take up their own physical challenge. If we inspired just one person to come up with their own "crazy idea" then it was all worth it. After wards, person after person came up to tell me thank you and that they felt if we could run 100 miles, they could at least do a few themselves.

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