Maitham's Corner: Vanessa and Nikki Niemeyer
Vanessa and Nikki Niemeyer run to raise funds to send 100 disadvantaged kids to school.
By: Maitham Basha-Agha
I recently caught up with sisters and distance runners Vanessa and Nikki Niemeyer, who are training for the Bali Hope Ultra Marathon to help fund education for underprivileged Indonesian schoolchildren. We discussed how they got into running, how they learned about the race, and why compassion matters.
Maitham Basha-Agha: Please tell me about yourselves.
Vanessa Niemeyer: We were born and raised in Erie, PA. We grew up playing multiple sports like soccer, cross-country, and track. Besides running, we like to hike, kayak, and basically anything outdoors. I went to Gannon for undergrad and graduate school while Nikki attended Edinboro for undergrad and University at Buffalo for graduate school.
MB: What is the Bali Hope Ultra Marathon?
Nikki Niemeyer: This is a 52 mile one-night run in Bali to raise funds to send 100 disadvantaged kids to school, ran by a group of 15 runners from around the world. We are among a select few from the U.S. participating in this event. This is the first year that this ultra-marathon is happening and the first ever ultra in Bali, Indonesia.
MB: For this Marathon, you have to apply to get in… can you tell us more about the process?
NN: I follow a well-known ultra-runner, Samantha Gash, on Instagram and she posted a video about the Bali Ultra with the caption 'one spot left' and I applied on a whim not expecting anything because why not? Had a phone interview the next day and was asked to join the team! I cried. I then asked Vanessa to run this with me, and when one of the 15 runners dropped out she became the 15th member.
MB: What are you hoping to achieve by participating in this?
NN: We did not sign up for this marathon to prove to ourselves that we could run 52 miles, in fact the most I've ever run before is a half marathon and Vanessa a full. I applied to this run to be a part of something larger than myself; it's not every day you get to take your passion and use that to help other people. Our sense of accomplishment will be in enabling 100 children to receive an education that will change their lives, help them provide for their families and so much more.
MB: Many people might look at this and say "well it's not in my area, so why do I need to worry about the kids in Bali?"
VN: A life is a life regardless of geographic location. Who is to say that someone is not deserving of help just because of where they live? Help is needed everywhere and this opportunity just happened to present itself out of Bali and we would never pass it up because it is not in the U.S. Here in America we take for granted so many resources we have. Educational inequality exists around the world, and enabling any child to receive an education positively impacts the world population.
MB: How are you preparing yourselves for the race?
VN: We have a running schedule and a weight training schedule to prepare for this run. Weekends we run our back-to-back long runs and we weight train two to three days a week. It is important to build core and legs for this. Mental preparation to get us through the training comes from remembering the purpose behind all this and how lucky we are to have been presented with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
MB: Tell me something interesting about yourselves that not many people know.
VN: I have been running at least a mile every single day since November 26, 2013 for a four-plus year running streak!
NN: While I lived in Buffalo I participated in The Ride for Roswell to raise funds for cancer patients and cancer research.
MB: Anything else you would like to share with the Reader's readers?
NN: We cannot express the amount of gratitude for any support, whether it be through financial contributions, recommendations, or verbal words of encouragement. We would love to send any information or answer any questions! Each runner's goal is to raise $5,000 which is what is needed to send 100 kids to school in Bali.