I hated running as a child, and only came to it as an adult, around 10 years ago on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota when I started running simply because I felt cooped up from physical inactivity. So I started running on the gorgeous rolling plains of South Dakota. It took several weeks for me to build up the ability to run a mile or two, and then, for the first time, it actually felt good and I was hooked.
|Rolling grassland of Pine Ridge reservation. I learned to run on this gravel road.|
And then, one year ago, I moved to the Hopi Reservation in Northern Arizona, and incidentally found myself in a place where not only do I not receive any puzzled glances when I run, but where I am completely amazed and humbled by the running tradition and culture of the Hopi people.
The Hopi have a long tradition of running, and maintain that tradition to this day, through ceremony, sports, and everyday life. In 1912, a Hopi runner named Louis Tewanima won a silver medal in 10,000 meter race, setting a US record that would stand for 52 years. There is now an annual 5K and 10k race in his honor, which I had the honor of participating in earlier this month. http://www.tewanimafootrace.org/about.html
At this, and many other races I have attended, Hopi people of all skill levels and all ages, from elementary school children to grandmothers and grandfathers, come out to run together, and cheer eachother on: "nahongvita" or 'stay strong'. There are running trails all over the reservation, looping around all the villages, up and down the mesas. The Hopi Wellness Center runs an annual "100 mile Club" which encourages participants to run or walk a total of 100 miles over the course of the summer.
|Running trails behind the Wellness Center|
It has been truly amazing to be a runner and be surrounded by such a deep, rich, running culture.
This fall, I've joined an eight-member team of mostly Hopi staff members of the hospital for a 2-day trail relay run in November 3-4 at McDowell Mountain Regional Park outside of Phoenix. We'll each be doing three legs spanning day and night for a total of 15.4 miles each or 123 miles total. It'll be a fun time and a good challenge for all of us, but we are also doing it as a fundraiser for the Unite to End Violence Native Women's Empowerment, a small grass-roots organization that organizes a run on the 25th of every month to raise awareness about domestic violence and works to support survivors.
|Example care package for survivors of domestic violence|