Thursday, June 23, 2011

Efren Ramirez Castrillon

I met him last year aboard a random city bus in a country foreign to us both. He was on his way to compete in the world masters mountain running championship on the Polish-Slovak border, while I was merely meandering across borders in search of life's meaning.

What we had in common was that we were both Colombian, spoke no Polish, and we were both chasing our dreams with a bare minimum of funding. He seemed a lot worse off, less privileged, and after a far more specific goal than I.

Therefore, I did everything possible to help him make it to the event, considering the odds he was up against, between language barriers, geographical disorientation, only a couple hours left to cover a hundred kilometers, and a severe lack of financial backing.

The genuine humility and relentless determination in his character made an unforgettable impression on me. We've kept in touch ever since, by the grace of gmail chat and $2 calling cards. He resides in the little town of Pitalito, in the department of Huila (Colombia). He was recently granted a 5 year visa by the U.S., in order to compete in the 2011 World Masters Athletics Championships in Sacramento, California. This will be his first ever visit to this country, and his dream is to use this trip as a stepping stone to participate in future marathons like the big urban ones of New York and Boston.... which offer the winner a hefty sum, which Efren would undoubtedly share with his impoverished neighbors and relatives.

I've gone ahead and purchased his airfare from here, since it's cheaper that way (ironically). He will spend the first three days of July with us in New York and then fly to the west coast on our independence day, to represent Colombia in the WMA Championships. If you know anyone in Sacramento who would be willing to host him for a couple of nights, please get in touch with me as soon as possible. He will have a week off between races, in which I've arranged for him to bus into the Bay Area and explore San Francisco by foot (while training). Again, if you know someone in San Fiasco who speaks fluent Spanish and would really like to show him around, by all means.

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