By Devlin Smith
On Oct. 29 Sara Higgins will be running in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC. This is Higgins’ first marathon and she’s using the event to raise money and awareness for the African Well Fund. So far she’s raised over $1,000 through her Firstgiving web page.
The 26-year-old cash management analyst for JPMorgan answered some questions about the upcoming marathon from her home in Chesapeake, Md., discussing what inspired her to run for the African Well Fund and how you can support her.
How long have you been a runner?
I have never considered myself a runner before training for this race.
Why did you decide to run in the Marine Corps Marathon?
I really wanted to make a difference in the lives of people living in poverty in Africa. Ultimately, I would like to find a career where I am able to make a difference on a day-to-day basis. What I can offer at this time is a way to build awareness and financial support through running a marathon. The Marine Corp Marathon is meant to be a really great race for first-time marathoners.
Why did you want to run the marathon to benefit the African Well Fund?
As mentioned in my website, clean water is really the first step toward any sustainable culture. It is something that all humans are entitled to and to know that more than half of Africa’s villages lack access to clean water is, literally, devastating. The African Well Fund seems concerned with and focused specifically on this issue. I wanted to link up with a charity that was doing just that—building clean water wells across Sub-Saharan Africa.
How did you first learn about AWF?
I first learned of AWF through my father. He, too, shares the same compassion for making a difference in Africa and knew I was searching for a charity organization to raise money for.
What kind of impact do you hope your run will have for the organization and the water issue in Africa?
My ultimate goal was to build awareness around the water issue in Africa and, obviously, to raise money for the cause. I hope that people in Gowke South, Zimbabwe, will be drinking clean well water next year.
What’s your ultimate goal for the marathon?
Crossing the finish line.
How are you preparing for the marathon?
I have been training for the marathon for four months. Over that time, I have run over 400 miles. I am still shocked that I have accomplished this. It is amazing how far we can push ourselves.
Can you describe your training regime? What have some of your biggest training challenges been?
My training consists of four to five runs per week—usually three to four shorter runs (anywhere between four and nine miles) and then one long run that I usually do on the weekend because it is quite time consuming. The longer run is anywhere between 10–22 miles.
I have just gradually increased the mileage. My father often follows me in his car on the long runs, handing me water and food. During the week, he sometimes follows me as well because I usually don’t get started until it is dark out, making it quite dangerous to run as I live in the country and there are no real sidewalks to run on.
The biggest challenge I have faced while training is the monotony. The long runs can take up to four hours and doing it alone can get pretty difficult. I have nothing to distract me from the voice telling me to stop every step I take. Even with that in mind, I must say that training for this overall has been an incredible experience. I am just beginning to realize what we are capable of physically and mentally. I really like pushing myself to the limit.
What kind of response have you gotten from friends, family members and even strangers to your plan to run and fundraise?
The response has been amazing. I am truly blessed to have such supportive, compassionate people around me. So many people have donated that I have not been in touch with for years. I am also planning on sending flyers out to my neighbors who see me running at 10 pm every night and have probably been wondering what crazy person would be running at that hour and why. I have even received support from strangers—truly incredible.
How can people support your run for AWF?
People can support me in any way possible—prayers, cheers, even a honk of the horn if you happen to drive by. I have a website (www.firstgiving.com/sararunsforafrica) where monetary donations can be made and words of encouragement are welcomed.
Do you think you’d do another run for AWF?
I would like to be able to support the African Well Fund through any avenue possible. If that means running again, sure.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about the marathon and running for AWF?
I really encourage people to try to find ways to make a difference in Africa. There is so much devastation and so many people that could really use the support. I have realized that there is always a way to help—if you want to make a difference, you can find a way. Although the training has been difficult, I have not regretted and will never regret what this run means and how it will affect people across the world.