At 54 years old, South Terrebonne High School teacher Chequita Martin ran her first marathon, a 26.2-mile race that she didn’t even prepare for and decided to enroll in the day before.
“I was tired. I didn’t even know about gels; I didn’t know about eating healthy, hydrating — nothing,” she remembered. “When I got to mile 22, I was exhausted…But I said, ‘I’m not giving up; I gotta finish this.”
Martin ended up not only finishing but also placing second in her age group with a time of three hours and 35 minutes.
But to those that know her, that’s not a surprise — as the Suriname native has never shied away from a challenge.
In 1980, a military coup occurred in Martin’s home country, which is on the northeastern coast of South America. “I decided to leave because I’m a free person. I don’t like anyone to hold me back. I am very outspoken. I am very freedom-oriented,” she shared.
At just 22 years old, Martin migrated to the States — with no family or friends to accompany her — to start a new life in America on her own.
“It was kind of like a challenge,” Martin said. “Most of my family went to Holland. We have a strong affiliation with the Netherlands because Suriname used to be a colony of Holland.”
“But I wanted the challenge. I wanted to make my own mark, do everything on my own,” she continued. “I’ve always been very independent.”
She immediately fell in love with Louisiana, Martin said, before highlighting the friendliness in southern culture. “They’re so open to others,” she continued. “People sometimes get curious. But honestly, I think the world is yours if you open up yourself to others and you just are more open to people’s needs.”
Martin went on to say traveling makes someone free from bias and prejudice “because you have to be open-minded in order to maintain in this world.”
“Everybody has beauty; everybody has their own value,” she added. “That’s how I live.”
In addition to independence and open-mindedness, one could certainly say, an adventurous spirit is at the forefront of Martin’s persona as well.
Martin has traveled to 27 U.S. states, 42 countries and six continents. “People think that traveling takes a lot of money, but sometimes I work while I’m there,” said the educator who taught English in Brazil, Spain, Costa Rica, Vietnam and Cambodia.
In August of this year, she completed another challenge of hers: to capture all of the Wonders of the World. “I said, ‘You know what, for it to be picked as a World Wonder, it must be magnificent.’ So, I worked on it,” she recalled.
The world traveler also said she doesn’t use taxis when visiting a foreign land, instead opting for public buses — even if she doesn’t speak the language. “That’s the part that I love: the challenge, going out there and figuring out how I’m going to do this, meeting people,” she continued. “I just love the challenge of traveling, just like I love the challenge of running.”
Since she started running five years ago, Martin has competed in multiple marathons in Louisiana and also ones in New York, Mississippi, Boston, Berlin and Chicago, among other places.
The most grueling event, Martin shared, was the Boston Marathon, which she had to first qualify for, then get picked out of a lottery to even participate in.
“It was the worst weather ever in Boston Marathon history,” she recalled. “When I started, I think it was 39 degrees. The whole marathon, I ran in the rain. It was atrocious. Today, I still can’t even believe that I finished it. But I did.”
Next year, she plans on running in London and Tokyo to finish another challenge: to complete the Abbott World Marathon Majors before she turns 60 years old next December.
“I was supposed to finish it, but of course, COVID-19…But I’m going to get it,” Martin said. “I’m trying to stay as healthy as possible.”
“I had several injuries, and every time I have an injury I say this: ‘I’ll come back stronger. I’ll heal well, and then I’ll go for it,’” she continued. “Nothing can hold me back because you gotta stay as positive as possible.”
Martin’s determination leads her to train six days a week, often waking up in the wee hours of the morning to do so, and she can even be seen jogging around South Terrebonne during lunch hours.
By her running and determination, she aims to inspire her students. “That’s why I’m doing it, just to be a better teacher, to be a better person, to inspire kids,” shared Martin, who also coaches cross country. “…You’re your own worst enemy if you say you can’t do it. You can do it — I always tell them that.”
“There’s always somebody else that’s worse off than you, always — that’s my mindset. And I always say life is good, not because life is so good, but life is what you make out of it,” she expressed. “You can be negative; of course, it’s easy to be negative. But wouldn’t you rather be positive and take on the world?”