One Saturday last November, Wilkes-Barre native Bryn Mesko ran the 13.1 miles of the Philadelphia Half-Marathon. The next day, did she rest? Put her feet up?
No, she got up early and ran the 26.2 miles of the full Philadelphia Marathon.
All that running might sound excessive, but it’s helping Mesko prepare for an eight-day ultramarathon called Run Across Haiti.
Set to begin Feb. 16, the coast-to-coast, 230-mile feat is a fund-raiser sponsored by an organization known as Work, which hopes to provide jobs for adults in a poor neighborhood of Port-au-Prince.
“A lot of kids are in the workforce now. We want to flip flop that,” Mesko said in a telephone interview, explaining that if parents had access to good jobs, children could stay in school.
Mesko, 30, moved to the Pittsburgh area a year ago and just began a new job at PNC Bank. Earlier, she worked for a non-profit, and that’s where she heard about the run — which appealed to her altruism and sense of adventure.
“I loved everything about it,” she said, adding that recent disparaging remarks President Donald Trump reportedly made about the island country have only increased her motivation “to carry out the mission of the run, which is to showcase the beauty of Haiti and prove it’s not a place to be pitied or feared. I intend to do just that.”
Online video clips of a previous Run Across Haiti show what this year’s 40 runners, including Mesko, can expect. The clips show the athletes, equipped with head lamps, starting their day hours before dawn to beat the heat.
The first day’s course that year was 37 miles, or 60 kilometers, someone mentioned, yet the terrain was “flat and rolling.” Subsequent days would take the runners, and their support team, up mountainous roads, some 4,000 feet above sea level. They would also run through a crowded marketplace, and meet people along the way.
“We’re not running in a bubble,” one person said.
Explaining a small boy had run alongside him for six miles, one runner pointed out the lad had been wearing a pair of Crocs that were too big for him, yet the youth still gave the older runner the challenge of trying to keep up.
The runners spoke of battling humidity and fatigue but were determined to press on.
Haitians in heavily accented English encouraged them with such sentiments as “Keep it up,” “You can do this” and “May God bless you.”
Mesko, who was a swimmer before she began to devote herself to running, isn’t worried about keeping up, though she did say “knock on wood” as she anticipated the satisfaction of completing the grueling event.
Her preparation has included the Pittsburgh Marathon and Scranton’s Steamtown Marathon in addition to the Philadelphia races. With advice from Work’s team coach, she’s running 45 to 50 miles per week, and expects to increase that to 55 to 60 over the next five weeks.
A graduate of the former Bishop Hoban High School in Wilkes-Barre and Northeastern University in Boston, she is the daughter of Gertrude and George Mesko, of Wilkes-Barre.
Getting ready for the ultramarathon includes running on a treadmill when the outdoor temperatures are really cold, she said. “Can’t stop now!”
It also includes “eating whatever I want — a lot of pizza,” she added with a laugh.
Just as important as the physical training is the fund-raising. Mesko is committed to raising $10,000 to support the race and the cause.
People interested in contributing may do so through crowdrise.com/run-across-haiti1 or by sending a check made out to “Work” to 5109 Duncan St., Pittsburgh, PA 15201.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.