Johnson: A Nicaraguan Giver

“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill


I can think of no better way to describe Johnson than through Winston Churchill’s quote. My mother always said there are two types of people in this world: givers and takers. Nicaraguan takers may eat more than gallo pinto, but Nicaraguan givers sleep peacefully through the crowing roosters. Johnson, an incredibly talented athlete, embodies my definition of a Nicaraguan giver.

We met Johnson many years ago on Ometepe Island. I knew the minute I laid eyes on him, that he was special. This humble, gracious young man strives to be the very best in everything that he does. From working in the plantain fields with his father to training for an ultramarathon, to learning English, Johnson strives for perfection.

In February 2013, Johnson won his first grueling Survivor Run in the Fuego y Agua Race. For over 16 hours, he raced up and down volcanoes, dug holes, swam with a raw egg strapped to his head, carried a 20 ft. bamboo pole up Maderas volcano, climbed coconut trees, carried a live chicken, and hauled 50 pounds of firewood on his back. After the race, I asked Johnson, “Are you tired?” He replied, “A little bit,” with a sheepish grin on his face.

That’s Johnson..remarkably cool, calm, and humble after competing with world-class athletes. Johnson never had any formal training. He just likes to run. So, with the help of several sponsors, he has now entered a new realm…a new world…much bigger than his tiny tropical island home. He is training and practicing in the U.S. for six months with a goal to return to Nicaragua and compete for a spot in the 1216 Olympics.

I am so outrageously proud of Johnson! I know he’s a little homesick and it will take a while for him to adjust to such a different world beyond Ometepe Island. He told me he learned how to make gallo pinto, but not like his mother’s! I told him that was a good skill to learn because his body is craving the life force of Nicaragua. I have no doubt that Johnson will return a winner. He has been given an opportunity of a lifetime and I have faith that he’ll return to proudly represent Nicaragua in the 2016 Olympics.

Wish him luck! He’s competing in his first race this weekend: The Spartan Race in Texas! Go Johnson!

Read more about Johnson, here: La Prenza

See You At The Races

Uncle Johnson with sleeping nephew Stephen

Ultramaratón Fuego y Agua takes place on Ometepe Island on February 18-19. Johnson, our 26 year-old friend, has been training for this grueling race since he won the 50 K race in 2009. At 4:00 am in 2009, the 50 K runners gathered at the starting line. An explosion of fireworks signaled the start, and the runners sprinted into the darkness; but, Johnson was not among them.  A few minutes later, two very confused runners arrived at the empty starting line. Johnson and another girl immediately took off in pursuit of the other runners. Ironically, Johnson had never raced in his life and he won with a time of 6:31.

A champion was born! Today, Johnson continues to hone his athletic abilities. A very talented and natural athlete, Johnson is serious about training. He is on the trail at 4:30 am every morning. Then, a quick breakfast before he starts work in the plantain fields at 7 am. In the evening, he takes to the trails, again. He is an amazing and very determined athlete.

Jose's marathon trophies

Jose, our neighbor, won the 25 K in 2009. Jose had never been in a race, either. Neither Johnson or Jose had any formal training before the Ultramaraton Fuego y Agua. I believe this race opened new worlds for these two talented runners. They both joined a runner’s club and often travel to race in Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

The Race Map

This map exhausts me just looking at it. I can’t imagine racing up and down two volcanoes! This year, Ron and I are volunteering to help the children in the 5 K race on Sunday, February 19th. I am really looking forward to it.

Ultramaratón Fuego y Agua   Check out the website and if you are going to be on Ometepe Island February 18-19, I’ll see you at the races!