Miami-Dade County

Cuban living in Miami wants to return to island for 1,000-mile run

Cuban runner Alexis Garcia.
Cuban runner Alexis Garcia. Courtesy of Alexis Garcia

Cuban runner Alexis Garcia, 53, once dreamed of walking his native country in its entirety. But his dream was cut short when he left for the United States in 1992.

Thanks to the normalization of relations between the island and the United States, Garcia plans to make his dream a reality.

“I was always dreaming about walking the entire island of Cuba when I lived there,” he said in a phone interview. “I grew up in Cuba and lived there for 31 years.”

But his dream is more than just a personal accomplishment: He, along with the help of the nonprofit Dreamchasers organization, plans to raise money to purchase sneakers to donate to Cuban children.

“If we can donate shoes for kids, you don’t know whose dream you’ll be helping,” he said.

Beginning in November, Garcia plans to run 1,000 miles from the eastern- to western-most point of the island for 35 days.

Lisa Smith-Batchen, who lives in Idaho, is Garcia’s coach and head of Dreamchaser Foundation, a group geared to help women and children.

“Alexis’ dream is also my dream because I believe in him and his love to want to help others like children who are without shoes or who need shoes,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Garcia also will need donations to fund his run. He has set up a Go Fund Me account,, to help cover sneakers, food, and other essentials. He hopes to raise $35,000.

“It is time that I do this run,” he said.

Garcia, who was born in Matanzas, came to the United States on a kayak. He and another person were on the water for 55 hours, until the Coast Guard rescued them. He is now a physical education teacher at Miami Lakes K-8 Center. He and his wife, Marlene, have five children.

He has visited family several times in Cuba. On his most recent trip in March, Garcia ran to get a feel of what will take place in November. He says there are no obstacles with governments.

“I don’t have a political agenda, so there isn’t a problem,” he said. “I ran in March with no problem.”

Garcia, who plans to video record his run, has run marathons and ultra-marathons in an effort to raise awareness such as childhood obesity.

“Everything I do is to benefit children,” he said.

He has already begun training to accomplish his dream by biking for about 20 miles and running for more than an hour daily six days a week.

To him the hard work is meaningless because watching other children enjoy their new shoes will bring him happiness.

“The bigger your dream the bigger the accomplishment will be,” he said. “Dream big and you’ll accomplish big dreams at the same time you can help others.”

How to help

To donate for shoes, visit