Saturday, July 14, 2012

One hundred miles for Fundación Prótesis Para la Vida

Looming ahead in the personal annals of ill-advised adventures is something called the "Grindstone 100," which will take place on October 5-6 (potentially to Oct 7) later this year.  More on this monstrous undertaking below.

First, a word about the whys and wherefores, and an appeal for your help.  (A link to the online pledge form appears at the bottom of this blog.)

The Cause for which I'm running: Fundación Prótesis Para la Vida

What has kept me going more than three decades as a runner is at bottom a simple love of movement.  What has fueled the last two years as an ultra-runner is a childlike compulsion I never quite got past to explore the world on my own two feet & see what lies over the next hill.   So it is disquieting to me in the extreme to think how easily mobility can be taken away from any of us at any time.

I think of mobility as a fundamental human need as well as a right.  Yet poverty prevents many people from obtaining the prosthetics they need.  One of the organizations founded to help those who could not otherwise afford mobility is Fundación Prótesis Para la Vida (Prosthetics for Life), based in Ecuador.  Some of their patients (not the very young ones pictured here, obviously) have waited decades for a prosthetic limb.

Prótesis para la Vida is a very small organization, with bare-bones administration and facilities.  Your pledge of support will therefore go an astonishingly long way.  It will go directly to those who need the help.   As they explain on their website, for the same budget as a single below-knee prosthesis in the United States, their clinic is able to provide something like thirty equivalent prostheses to patients in Ecuador.   Prótesis para la Vida also provides low-cost adaptive designs:  aids such as standing desks and other equipment, ingeniously constructed out of cardboard and other affordable materials, to improve everyday life for patients.

In honor of Jennifer Lee Knowles (1965-2012)

To be honest, when I run now, I am often running with those who are gone.  My good friend since college, JenLee was a remarkable person in so many ways.  Smart, compassionate, and tireless, she served as the U.S. Coordinator for Prótesis para la Vida.   There's a moving tribute to JenLee and her work in Ecuador provided on the website.

There's also an inspiring report on the first JenLee 5K, held last March in the shadow of the Imbabura Volcano.  The photos of participants, including prosthetic patients among the runners, gives you a good sense of what the work of  Prótesis para la Vida means to the community.  I think this race is an appropriate legacy for JenLee.  An avid climber and mountain biker for many years, she could be scarily tough and resilient.  Those qualities certainly shone brightly throughout her struggle with the serous carcinoma that ultimately took her life.

The Grindstone 100 Mile Race

This excursion through the Virginia mountains adds up to a little bit over 100 miles (101 point something, as if that matters) and includes some nice little "hills" amounting to an elevation gain of 23000 feet.  The unusual feature is that you start out at 6PM, just as the sun is setting, with a good 12 hours of running through the night on single-track trail.  Then there's another day of running--and for most runners, another sunset and another night on the trail.

I am duly humble about my chances.  While I've done the 100-mile distance a couple of times, and I've done the mountainous 50 km to 50 mile races, combining the massive climbs with the century distance is terra incognita for me.  Plus, you can't trust mountains.  They call the shots.  They make their own weather.  What is passable terrain one day, is a slough of mud and rocks the next.

Please pledge your support

Here's the deal.  You fill out the online pledge form now, promising X amount per mile actually completed.  After the race, once I recover consciousness and stop eating pizza, I will send you documented proof of my finish (or portion thereof) plus the link to Prótesis para la Vida.  A PayPal link (with alternatives) will be set up so you will be able to make a donation in the appropriate amount directly to them.

Online pledge form here.  It's fast, it's easy, you can pledge what  you like (a penny a mile, ten bucks a mile) and I won't sell your info to marketers!

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