Marathon runner: from Guyana to London
Sr Theo, CJ, gives us an insight into her time spent overseas and why it has inspired her to run the London Marathon for Jesuit Missions.
Firstly, can you give us a little introduction to yourself?
I’m 32, and I’m a sister of the Congregation of Jesus (CJ sisters). I’m sort of a theologian – my work at the moment is writing something on peace and Catholic social teaching, and I also do bits of research and teaching. When I’m not doing that, I’m mostly running, at least at the moment…
How long have you been a member of the Congregation of Jesus?
I’ve been with the CJs for three years now.
You spent some time recently in Guyana, what were you doing there?
I was lucky enough to spend seven months in Guyana in 2017. The first three (late Jan-early May) were spent with the Ursuline sisters in Karasabai, north Rupununi, sharing their mission with the Amerindian villages of that area. The sisters were amazing, and I really fell in love with the interior and with Amerindian people. That was an ‘experiment’ (that’s Ignatian-speak for ‘mission placement’) while I was still a novice. Then, six days after my first vows in September, I was back on a plane, this time heading to south Rupununi to help with some research for a bilingual education programme for Wapichan-speaking children. It was a great opportunity to do some fascinating work with some wonderful people.
What was the biggest challenge you faced?
I loved it. In wildlife terms, the biggest challenge was having to do that bullet-dodging move from The Matrix every morning in the shower, as two or three small pink frogs ricocheted around, and I tried to avoid them sticking to me. I trod on one once, in bare feet, and that was pretty grim.
What was your most memorable moment?
There are too many. It’s the most incredibly beautiful place, and I will always remember the views of the Rupununi skies, as well as things like swimming in creeks by moonlight, and travelling through the Pakaraimas on a quadbike. The people are unforgettable, too – generous, amazingly skilled and faithful. Amerindian people are also fantastic storytellers, and I’ve heard some that have had me crying with laughter!
What inspired you to take on this challenge and run the London marathon and why Jesuit Missions?
I’ve seen first-hand what a difference Jesuit Missions makes, and the work it makes possible in Guyana. The work there depends on the extraordinary generosity of the Jesuits, and their tireless efforts to serve people in some incredibly remote places, but it also depends on the generosity of people who give to Jesuit Missions so we can repair vehicles, buy supplies and do a hundred and one other things. I’ve seen how nursery children light up when they’re looking at new, Wapichan-language storybooks, printed with funds from Jesuit Missions. Those children deserve every mile, and every penny.
We say it’s like running three marathons: the actual race, the training and the fundraising, which do you think will be the hardest aspect for you?
I’m a runner anyway, so the training isn’t too bad, except on cold, wet mornings, when I wish I was back in the tropics! Perhaps the fundraising, as tragically I only know poor old nuns (hint hint).
What are you most looking forward to on race day?
I’m actually running the marathon with my younger sister Felicity, who is also running for Jesuit Missions, and I’m really excited about that. It’s her second marathon in two weeks –she’s also doing the Paris marathon– but I still stand no chance of keeping up with her. It’s been so great to have her companionship and enthusiasm throughout training, and I hope we’ll meet somewhere after the finish line…
What are you dreading the most on race day?
The possibility of being press-ganged into running in a womble costume!
If you would like to support Sr Theo CJ in her London Marathon efforts, please visit her fundraising page here.
To read about the rest of our 2018 London marathon team, click here.