We have been editing a bunch of different things for the third book, out next March. One section in it is going to be called In Her Shoes, which is first-person accounts of different running situations and tales. (So far, running a naked 5K is my—Dimity’s—favorite…but I’m not done yet.) A few of the In Her Shoes relate to running in foreign lands, and Bev Kauffeldt, a longtime mother runner, lives and runs in Liberia. The western African country is all over the news right now because of the Ebola virus and Bev is on the frontlines, so we thought we’d publish her experience published now, instead of next March.
My husband and I work for Samaritan’s Purse International Relief in Liberia. He is the Country Director and I oversee our community development programs, which include water and sanitation, literacy, sports programs for kids, and community health.
Normally, we, along with our two boys, live in Monrovia, the capital, which is where our main office is. We do mostly development long-term programs outside of Monrovia in the rural areas of Liberia. But with the serious ebola outbreak, my duties concern the disaster response. I am doing water, sanitation, and hygiene services for our case management center in a northern community called Foya.
Right now, our working days are long, usually 15-17 hours. Today, part of my job was to put on a full protection suit and remove two women who had died from ebola. One of them had a little boy who is still in the clinic but is now without a mom. It was a hard morning.
I’ve got to run—or I would stress too much about ebola and about the safety of our staff. I run to clear my head and know that God will give us all strength. We must keep fighting for these people who have nothing and are scared of this disease.
When I can, I run on red dirt roads or jungle trails near our Foya base. Everything is all jungle and green: Every shade of green you could imagine. Like a large petri dish. I either smell burning grass (passing by farms) or urine (going through a village). There is not a lot of sanitation here and men pee everywhere. As I pass through little villages, I hear kids yelling “Poomwee!,” which means “white person” in the local dialect. Not my favorite name.
Sometimes I run alone, but only during the day. I would never run in darkness here; our organization’s safety policy is that no men or women are out after sunset. That said, Liberia is so close to the equator, we have 12 hours of light and 12 of dark. So as soon as the sun is up, I get up and go because it gets hot and humid quickly. My long runs are on Sunday morning: They are my “church” and are the reason why I am still here. I use the miles to refocus, pray, and be grateful.
Although I worry about my safety sometimes, I worry most about snakes on my runs. We have a lot of them, and they are all brutally dangerous—and there is no anti-serum out here! I’ve never seen more than their tracks, but my running buddy saw a huge black mamba once.
Earlier this year, a co-worker and I ran 37.5 miles from one village to Foya. It was epic. The miles were grueling; so hot, and it seemed like there was another hill every time we came around a bend in the road. But it was amazing to run by the communities where we had worked for the past 10 years. It was really gratifying to see how far they had come since the end of their civil war, which ran from 1999 to 2003. —Bev Kauffeldt (Plans to run the Liberia Marathon next January when the outbreak is contained.)