Tassy Fils-Aime is pretty sure he’s the only Haitian runner to have ever run the entire length of his country. When the runner ran across Haiti, he inspired an annual 240-mile, eight-day ultra that now attracts elite stars.
This year, the race, called Run Across Haiti, brought ultra runners Dean Karnazes and Hillary Allen as well as 20 regular runners who ran alongside the pros. The aim of the run is to raise funds to increase employment among Haitian people. So far, it has brought in over U.S. $135,000 for job training, language programs, job placements and resources to get kids in school.
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That’s a cause that’s important to Fils-Aime who comes from a poor neighbourhood where residents don’t get a lot of opportunities. Because of his efforts, his story has also been turned into a short documentary titled “Further.”
“I think that I’m the first Haitian to run across the country,” he says in the mini doc. “I’m from City Soleil. People know it to be a place of poverty,” he explains adding that few get the chance to explore the country. But after taking on this run, he has brought positive change and turned it into an annual event in Haiti.
“We run to show the world that Haiti is not a place to be feared, not a place to be pitied, and not a place to forget. It’s one of the hardest adventure runs in the world, and we’re pretty proud of that,” says organizer and founder Ian Rosenberger in his appearance in the documentary.
That it’s a tough ultra makes the event more than your average charity event. Even avid ultrarunners can back that up. “It’s safe to say it’s one of the hardest races in the world,” says athlete Dean Karnazes. It’s not just the terrain. Temperatures in Haiti make it really difficult to get in high mileage day after day. “I’ve run 230 miles non stop in the U.S… not even close to what this is,” says Karnazes.
The event was opened up to the public this year after it went through planning stages in February. To take part in next year’s ultra, see here.