By Jordy Yager - 02/01/10 11:28 PM EST
Hinton, the communications director for the House Agriculture Committee’s minority staff, and Landers, who left her post last month as the House Small Business Committee’s minority staff communications director, have begun their unique training regimen for their marathon in Namibia. And to add yet another international element to their adventure, they have decided to run for charity, setting a goal of raising $10,000 for a Nepalese children’s organization.
“And then I found out that she’s crazy enough to run a marathon in Namibia,” Hinton said with a laugh.
Wearing a pair of black, flat-soled Chuck Taylor shoes because her calves still burned from the Houston marathon she ran two days prior, Landers, 27, said she’s addicted to running.
“I don’t really know why I run. I just must,” said Landers, who has run four marathons in the last six months. “I think the answer will change every day. And I have a mind that constantly won’t shut up, so running is where I find solace.”
Hinton, 32, is also a marathon racer but sees herself more as an adventurer set on exploring every piece of the world. She caught the travel bug while teaching economics at a university in Uzbekistan as a Peace Corps volunteer. Afterward, she spent several months traveling around Central and Eastern Asia and has been itching to go back abroad ever since.
Landers is likewise a travel nut. Almost a year before the presidential elections, she quit her job working in the press office of then-Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and moved to Costa Rica. What was intended to be a one-month vacation turned into a year living in a beach hut.
“I was so addicted to my BlackBerry, stressed out, working so hard, and the first time I went to Costa Rica I wanted to check my e-mail all the time,” said Landers, who wears a necklace with a nickel-sized picture of the Central American nation hanging from it. “That was the first slowing-down for me, and I surfed my first wave in Costa Rica.”
Back stateside and working on Capitol Hill, Landers was preparing last fall to run the Seattle marathon when Hinton mentioned that she had always wanted to run an international race. Landers loved the idea.
“I figured if we’re going to do one, we should do one that’s legit, that’s a challenge,” Landers said. “So we literally started Googling marathons in difficult climates and conditions, and found this one in Namibia.”
The duo then decided to use the grueling physical challenge as an opportunity to raise money for children and families.
“I’ve never done one for charity, so we decided that would be cool,” said Landers, who remembered a friend of hers in Costa Rica who had visited Nepal and brought back pictures and stories of extreme poverty and people in need.
The two women, who have never been to Nepal, found a group called the Child Welfare Scheme (CWS), which gets school supplies and daily necessities to Nepalese children and their families. Hinton and Landers have been asking every family member, co-worker and even strangers for donations.
“The average donation has been around $50,” Landers said. She left her congressional job last month to rejoin Spellings at her consulting firm, and when friends offered to take her out for a drink, she told them, “You know what I’d like more is you could help us out and make a donation.”
They’ve each raised about $2,000 so far; a fundraiser with friends at Top of the Hill last week brought in nearly $500. And they haven’t let others’ skepticism deter them from their goal to reach $5,000 each by March.
“Some people have given us a hard time, like, ‘Why are you running a marathon in Namibia for a charity in Nepal?’ And I just say, ‘Well, it’s a total global experience,’ ” Hinton said. “These children in Nepal are living in desperate conditions, even when the U.S. is not in a recession.”
As hard as the fundraising has been, the more arduous task is training for a marathon known as “an endurance race for marathoners.” The race requires participants to wear a GPS system to navigate (or be found if they get lost) and carry a minimum of three liters of water while running.
Landers and Hinton have been running as much as possible — Landers is planning to run the Boston Marathon in April and Hinton plans to run a Virginia Beach marathon in March — and training with backpack water bladders. While Landers is more focused on her race time and pushing her body to its limit, Hinton said she’s content just crossing the finish line and seeing some of the indigenous wildlife.
“She’s totally going to dust me,” Hinton joked. “I’ll be hanging out with the rhinos.”
The women said they’re not really sure what to expect from the race.
“I think it can be as hot as 135 degrees Fahrenheit and as cold as 30 degrees,” Landers said. “The website says that the extreme nature of the desert is such that it’s extremely unpredictable, so we’re not sure what’s going to happen. I guess we have to wear clothes, huh? I’ll probably wear shorts and a dry-fit T-shirt. I’ll be in a full-cushion Nike shoe, which weighs about 9 ounces.”
Hinton is taking a slightly different approach.
“After Peace Corps I sort of developed this mentality of ‘I’ll figure it out when I get there; it can’t be that difficult,’ ” she said with a smile.
Hinton and Landers will have two days to acclimate themselves to the harsh climate and do some pre-race training. On the third day, the starting pistol fires at 9 a.m., and by 5 p.m., they have to be across the finish line.
The course is described on the website as “firm with loose stones” for the first half; the ground “becomes softer underfoot” for the second half. In between is a medical checkpoint where they will undergo a required physical assessment before continuing.
Hinton and Landers will be camping in tents before and after the marathon. But they will spend the night after the marathon in a nearby hotel, complete with palm trees and a close walk to the beach for some rest and relaxation.
What’s next for the Hinton and Landers adventure team? They’re not entirely sure. Traveling is a must, but the destination is still up in the air.
“My big thing, if I survive the marathon in Namibia, is I want to run the original marathon in Greece,” Hinton said.
“We definitely want to go to Nepal,” Landers said. “And I hear that there’s a marathon that goes through part of the country and around the base of Mount Everest.”