2009.05.05: May 5, 2009: Headlines: COS - Niger: Sports: Running: Frederick News Post : When Dickson Mercer went to Niger to work in the Peace Corps in 2007, his biggest worry wasn't about safety. The former Frederick resident and avid runner wanted to make sure he could continue to run

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Niger: Peace Corps Niger : Peace Corps Niger: Newest Stories: 2009.05.05: May 5, 2009: Headlines: COS - Niger: Sports: Running: Frederick News Post : When Dickson Mercer went to Niger to work in the Peace Corps in 2007, his biggest worry wasn't about safety. The former Frederick resident and avid runner wanted to make sure he could continue to run

By Admin1 (admin) (151.196.24.5) on Thursday, May 14, 2009 - 9:17 am: Edit Post

When Dickson Mercer went to Niger to work in the Peace Corps in 2007, his biggest worry wasn't about safety. The former Frederick resident and avid runner wanted to make sure he could continue to run

When Dickson Mercer went to Niger to work in the Peace Corps in 2007, his biggest worry wasn't about safety. The former Frederick resident and avid runner wanted to make sure he could continue to run

He found out that he could, but he had to train under some strange and at times tough conditions. But he was able to run enough last year that he came back and competed in the New York Marathon. Then on Sunday, the 27-year-old won the Frederick Marathon, a race in which he took second in 2006. It was the January after his first Frederick Marathon that Mercer and his wife, Emily Dufton, left for Niger in West Africa to work with people in Goudimouni, a village of about 4,000. They were there from January of 2007 to March of 2008, working mainly with agricultural and natural resource management. "Before I left for Africa, I wasn't sure what was going to happen to my running," Mercer said about a half hour after finishing the Frederick Marathon in 2:37.04. He was walking with a bit of a limp and his wife had to help him onto the stage. "There were a lot of people that voiced concerns about my safety and things like that. But running, that was a big concern in my head." Mercer has been a runner for about 10 years and it has become a very big part of his life. "I was able to train over there enough so that when I got back here in March of 2008, I was able to get back into heavy training," he said.

When Dickson Mercer went to Niger to work in the Peace Corps in 2007, his biggest worry wasn't about safety. The former Frederick resident and avid runner wanted to make sure he could continue to run

FINDING A WAY

Mercer was determined to continue training for marathons

Originally published May 05, 2009


By Stan Goldberg
News-Post Staff

WHEN DICKSON MERCER went to Africa to work in the Peace Corps in 2007, his biggest worry wasn't about safety. The former Frederick resident and avid runner wanted to make sure he could continue to run.

He found out that he could, but he had to train under some strange and at times tough conditions. But he was able to run enough last year that he came back and competed in the New York Marathon. Then on Sunday, the 27-year-old won the Frederick Marathon, a race in which he took second in 2006.

It was the January after his first Frederick Marathon that Mercer and his wife, Emily Dufton, left for Niger in West Africa to work with people in Goudimouni, a village of about 4,000. They were there from January of 2007 to March of 2008, working mainly with agricultural and natural resource management.

"Before I left for Africa, I wasn't sure what was going to happen to my running," Mercer said about a half hour after finishing the Frederick Marathon in 2:37.04. He was walking with a bit of a limp and his wife had to help him onto the stage.

"There were a lot of people that voiced concerns about my safety and things like that. But running, that was a big concern in my head."

Mercer has been a runner for about 10 years and it has become a very big part of his life.

"I was able to train over there enough so that when I got back here in March of 2008, I was able to get back into heavy training," he said.

But training in Africa was totally different. For one thing, it was over 100 degrees most of the year. Mercer called it a dry heat.

"You had to get out at 5:30 in the morning or it would be too hot," he said.

There weren't a lot of places to train, just one road that ran near the village. It was the only major road in the country. He ran it mostly every day.

Sometimes he would get to go into a nearby city (Zinder, which was two hours away in a bush taxi) or the capital of Niamey, where he said it was a little easier to run.

When healthy, he would run 10 miles a day and 15 miles on Sundays.

It wasn't uncommon for him to run in the morning, eat breakfast, walk six kilometers (an hour march through the desert) to the plot of land where he and Emily were farming. Sunday was market day, and he didn't have work in the field so he could run longer.

But he and the other volunteers got sick a lot, especially with stomach issues, and it hampered his ability to train.

"There were definitely some days I remember when a couple of times being sick and trying to run," Mercer said. "I would run about a mile up the road and think this is not a good idea. Then I would go back."

After a while, the villagers would go with him and they had no trouble running 10 miles in flip-flops.

He managed to compete in one marathon, in Accra, the capital of Ghana. It took him more than three hours to complete.

"It was supposed to start at 5:30 in the morning because it's so hot in that part of the world," Mercer said. "But there is a different sense of time in that part of the world. It didn't get started until 8:30 in the morning. The temperature at that time was over 100 degrees. It was my toughest marathon ever."

n n n

BEFORE MERCER LEFT AFRICA, he wanted to run in the New York Marathon in November of 2008. So when he returned to the United States, he began training hard. Mercer, who runs with the Georgetown Running Company team, ran the New York Marathon in 2:41 and wasn't happy with his time.

He decided to run in a second marathon and picked Frederick . Mercer, who lived in Frederick for a year and a half in 2005 and 2006, enjoyed his first event here and felt like this was his hometown race, even though he lives in Takoma Park, where he works for Southern Maryland Newspapers. His wife is a Ph.D. student at George Washington.

Meanwhile, Mercer will never forget his time in Africa. He said the poverty is hard to fathom. They lived in mud hut that the villagers built for them. He said the people in the village were resilient no matter how bad things got.

He called it a secure place. He never felt in danger.

"It had its up and downs, it was definitely a good experience," he said of his time in Africa. "It definitely widened our view of the world."




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Story Source: Frederick News Post

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Niger; Sports; Running

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