Carlow, Nupa White Plume, Kelsey Good Lance, Alex Wilson and Jeff
Turning Heart competed in Sunday's ING NYC Marathon and raised at
least $20,000 for a youth center on The Rez, as they call it.
Amanda Carlow's heel hurts. Nupa White Plume's calves and ankles
are cranky, and his body begged him to stop with 385 yards to go.
A year later than they'd planned, five runners from the Lakota Nation
and the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota finally got to run
the New York City Marathon Sunday, empowered by their cause and
the crowds, even if the pounding and the wind roughed them up.
"It's an indescribable feeling having a million people cheering
for you," said Carlow, the lone female member of a group known as
Team One Spirit, which returned to The Rez, as they call it, as
rubber-soled heroes Monday, saluted for their feat, and their feet.
"So many of the stories from back home are negative," Carlow
said. "This is something positive . . . showing young people what
you can do if you work at it."
One Spirit ran in New York to raise at least $20,000 for a youth
center on Pine Ridge, the second largest reservation in the country,
a stark and sprawling place that is twice the size of Connecticut,
with 40,000 residents and two traffic lights and a brutal array
of challenges. The runners showed up last year, only to have the
race canceled by the ravages of Hurricane Sandy. On what would've
been Marathon Sunday, 2012, Team One Spirit took the ferry to Staten
Island and then ran five miles to a shoreline area and pitched in.
"We wanted to help," White Plume said.
Life on the reservation can be grim, even on the best days.
Life expectancy for men is 48 years, 52 for women. Per capita income
is $4,000, unemployment is about 85% and the school dropout rate
approaches 70%. Alcohol-related illnesses and crashes are epidemic,
and teenage suicide, perhaps the biggest problem of all, is believed
to be as much as 20 times higher than it is for a kid who lives
a few miles away, in Nebraska.
White Plume, 29, has two boys, ages nine and four, and lives
in a ramshackle compound of trailers surrounded by debris and an
outhouse, with as many as 10 or 12 family members.
"The benefit of (us running the marathon) is to get kids motivated,"
said White Plume, who ran the marathon in three hours, 21 minutes.
"We want to give them (encouragement), something to keep their lives
The other Lakota runners Kelsey Good Lance, Alex Wilson
and Jeff Turning Heart ran with the same mission. They believe
that the new youth center, with programs and activities and a much-needed
destination, can make a measurable difference, and so does Dale
Pine, the cross-country and track coach of Pine Ridge School, who
lost his daughter, Cassandra, to suicide when she was 15.
spent marathon Sunday following his five runners, getting a tour
of the New York City subway system in the process. "I went through
a $25 MetroCard," he said. When Jeff Turning Heart was in serious
distress Sunday, Pine thought about hopping onto the course to help
him keep going. The coach was struck by how different New York felt
on Marathon Sunday as opposed to the days before how it had
seemingly morphed into a small town, people reaching out, supporting
each other, sharing the day's spirit.
"I'm proud of all of them - proud they all finished," Pine said
of his runners.
Amanda Carlow, whose painful heel barked at her for the last
10 miles, is a school counselor on The Rez. She will be back at
school Tuesday, with her finisher's medal and stories to tell from
her run through New York City.
"Every time I thought I might have to quit, the crowd got louder
and louder, yelling, 'C'mon One Spirit, you have to keep going,"
Carlow said. "No matter how much it hurt, I knew I had to finish."