Between active volcanoes in Guatemala and reckless drivers in Cayman, marathon runner Derek Haines faced some close encounters this year.
At times thrilling, the dangers represented a personal sacrifice for Mr. Haines in the name of service and science.
The 69-year-old athlete and Rotarian, commonly seen training alongside Grand Cayman’s roads, accepted the risks as part of his intensive, five-race “Volcanoes and Marathons” challenge for the Central Caribbean Marine Institute’s program, Reefs Go Live.
With the conclusion of the Intertrust Cayman Islands Marathon Sunday, the physical challenges have come to an end, but Mr. Haines’s work is not yet done.
He took on the challenge to climb two volcanoes and run three marathons this year to raise $50,000 for the CCMI initiative. The program will enable scientists to broadcast live from Little Cayman’s ocean floor to classrooms across the islands.
With $40,000 already raised, CCMI has begun establishing the program’s framework but Mr. Haines said more funds will be needed for maintenance.
“CCMI has actually bought the equipment to start the reef research that will direct the program into schools. There will be that link between the students and the researchers on the ocean floor so the students can ask questions of the researchers and see what he or she is doing to sort it out,” Mr. Haines said.
“What we’re trying to do now is make sure they have enough money to keep it going. There is no point in buying it and it falls flat.”
Mr. Haines estimates he has already run some 1,900 miles this year for the charity challenge. His efforts began in Guatemala in April at the demanding Lake Atitlan marathon, where he took second place in his age group.
“It’s one of the top 10 most-challenging marathons in the world and I’m not going to dispute it. It starts at 5,000 feet on the shore of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. It continues to climb from there. It’s on the side of a volcano. So it’s very steep,” he said.
“It was quite a tough course. It took me about five hours or so, which is the slowest I’ve ever been and an indication of how difficult it was.”
He returned to Guatemala in late June to climb two volcanoes, Pacaya and Acatenango. Heavy rain, mudslides and the threat of hot lava from the active Fuego Volcano did not deter Mr. Haines, nor his companions, daughter Lizzy Haines and friend Gaby Amado.
“We were actually looking down on Fuego. It was erupting at the time. It was quite exciting and enjoyable to watch from an interest point of view. Fortunately, we were only subjected to loud bangs and smoke, nothing else. We never got ourselves in danger,” he said.
During the marathons, Mr. Haines endured some physical battering. In July’s San Francisco marathon, he took a spill, joking, “I left DNA across the street there.”
His final feat, the Intertrust Cayman Islands Marathon, proved physically demanding. The athlete got off to an early morning, waking a 3 a.m. to prepare for a 5 a.m. start time.
“The first 20 miles were fine and after a two-hour first half, I was on for a reasonable time. Unfortunately, I had a serious attack of cramps and the last six miles were not a pleasant experience and took about one hour, 45 minutes. But I finished and was very proud of the effort by [daughter] Lizzy in her finishing a close second in the female category,” he said.
Despite the difficulties, Mr. Haines said he found encouragement through support from the community and the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman, which manages his fundraising efforts.
“People know that money is safe [with Rotary]. The other thing is that they also know we don’t have any admin fees or expenses. Any expense for traveling, I pay for myself and there are no management fees. If someone gives us a dollar or $10 or $1,000, all of that goes to the charity,” he said.
CCMI Director Carrie Manfrino praised the efforts of Mr. Haines and fellow Rotarian Chris Bailey. Mr. Bailey also contributed to fundraising by taking on Ironman Florida in November.
Ms. Manfrino expects the Reefs Go Live program to launch in January.
“Derek has achieved the most remarkable feats this year. His physical efforts and his vision to help launch the Reefs Go Live project demonstrate his incredible commitment to the local community and to the world. Derek helped raise the profile of Reefs Go Live and will forever be remembered for helping establish this important program,” Ms. Manfrino said.
“Being able to communicate our work from the ocean directly to the classrooms is a stunning advancement in teaching methodology, and we will begin to impact local students so that every child can be ocean literate.”
For those who would like to contribute to the program, Mr. Haines can be contacted through the security office at Camana Bay, where he works for Dart Enterprises. Checks should be made out to Rotary Club of Grand Cayman, with CCMI indicated in the memo.