Words by Jennifer Labrie.
Pictures by Lance Leong.
My name is Jennifer. I’m a runner and a tequila enthusiast. Or is it tequila enthusiast first and runner second? That’s not a knock on running, I REALLY love tequila…but I digress.
I met Noel through a blanket drive he organized for people on skid row. Since then, we remained in touch and I got to learn about his idea for the Burnout. Noel first shared with me his idea for this event back in December. His plan was to organize an unsanctioned 10k race for 25 women in DTLA, I was immediately intrigued.
First, I had never heard of an unsanctioned race in DTLA. Second, it was going to be open to the first 25 women who signed up…I repeat, WOMEN ONLY. Lastly, and most importantly, it was going to benefit our LA runners participating in the Run Across Haiti presented by Work. My brother and dear friends Esther and Ozzie, ran in Haiti last year, so the cause is one that is still very near and dear to my heart. For those who don’t know, Work’s mission is to accompany families in Haiti out of poverty through good, dignified jobs.
Due to civil unrest in Haiti, Work had to postpone this year’s run. Since then, the runners who were supposed to participate have held 34-mile runs throughout the country to show their commitment to the families in Haiti the organization supports. Needless to say, the timing of this event could not have been better. I knew this was going to be special.
Registration opened on February 1 and I signed up. The hype and anticipation of this day was so exciting. Weeks and days leading up to the event, Noel was sharing updates with the support crew and I could tell everyone was all in and just as eager.
Less than a week away from race day, I was experiencing some pain in my left knee and met with an orthopedic specialist. She ordered for me to get an MRI for a possible torn meniscus and told me I couldn’t run until we got the results. I felt defeated since I had been training diligently with K/RC for the past 14 weeks in preparation for the Los Angeles Marathon. I called Noel and told him to offer my bib to another runner on the waitlist.
The upside to all of this was that I got to help Noel and be a part of the support crew on race day. The best part was when I was standing behind the registration table and meeting all of the runners while they were checking in. I could feel the energy of the room shift as the music got louder and the increasing number of people started to fill the gallery. At this table, the runners were able to pick up their bib. They also had their pictures taken by an Instamax camera and wrote heartfelt messages and words of encouragement on postcards to women in Haiti in celebration of International Women’s Day. I felt so honoured to witness the love, compassion and camaraderie these runners were demonstrating.
Around 10:00PM, the women walked onto Venice Blvd. There they huddled together, and all placed their hands in as Work’s Executive Director Viven Luk lead them through Run Across Haiti’s signature chant, “Pou Ayiti!”. It was such a powerful and passionate moment. By then, before the race had even started, I already knew the Burnout Women’s 10k was a success. We had brought people together from running communities throughout Los Angeles to celebrate and showcase female athletes, all while supporting a fantastic cause.
If you know Noel, you know he is very organized and focused. From securing the cool art gallery venue, the talented artists for the silent auction, awesome caps for the runners, generous cash prizes for the winners, food and beer for all, and amazing music provided by local DJs whom we also run with. Noel planned things down to the smallest of details, and it paid off. By the time the event was over $1,700 had been raised with all of it going to Work.
For as long as I can remember, I always enjoyed running. I guess growing up with an older brother piqued my interest in outdoor activities and sports. In the third grade, my elementary school switched from a free-dress policy and adopted a uniform policy. All the boys were required to wear navy pants, white collared “polo” shirts and sneakers and the girls were required to wear plaid jumpers, white buttoned-down blouses and Mary Janes. Of course, my best friend Gina and I came to school on the first day of third grade wearing pants and polo shirts underneath our plaid jumpers and matching Nikes. We wanted to make sure we could play flag football and basketball on the blacktop. My teacher was supportive of our uniform modifications, but the Principal was not pleased. I’ll spare you the boring details of our long conversation with the Principal, which included our parents, but yes, we won that debate.
I bring this up because I think it is so important now more than ever to teach young girls they are not limited, nor should they feel restricted to dress or act a certain way because of societal expectations. Now, as a mother to my eight-year-old daughter, I feel it is my right and duty to speak up, teach and guide not only her, but all young girls. Sport has the opportunity to set the tone and redefine these cultural expectations. Representation is important, and an event like the Burnout is a fantastic showcase of the great things women can achieve in running, in sport and in life. It’s also a great example of how a community can come together to effect change for the less fortunate. That’s why I feel so fortunate to have participated in this event.
So, Noel, thank you for bringing such a great idea to fruition. Needless to say, more races like these need to happen in the future.