Copper Canyons Trip – Race Day – Part 3
The alarm at 4:00am seemed extra early as days of travel had begun to catch up with me. It was race day for the Caballo Blanco Ultra Marathon. The race was due to start at 6:00am with final checkin and the first wrist band distributed prior to the start. Slowly at first then with a rush people filled the town making an otherwise sleepy village boosting with activity well before light. Each participant received a bid and timing chips were checked, watching timing chips attached to sandals was a mix of new and old world colliding.
I looked around and saw everything from the high tech compression wear of the foreigners to the jeans and button down shirts and traditional clothing or a mixture of both worlds milling around the start. Many donned their new tech race shirts to run in. It was a starting line like none I had every seen before! At 6:00am there were off on the four loop course.
One the first loop watching the Tarahumara run was a real treat as some seemed to float down the dusty road effortless and weightless. Miguel Lara the local 2x winner lead the pack early on in the race, Silvino Cubesare was near the front as well (one of the original 7 to run Leadville years ago) it was a while before the first Americans showed up in a sea of Tarahumara.
After watching many cross over the bridge outside of town I stationed myself in Urique for the rest of the day watching as the runners would pass three times though the start/finish. It was here that I got to really see what the race was about. It’s not about the fast American’s or other international athletes, nor is it really about the fast Tarahumara. The real drama of the race unfolds with the middle of the pack. It is here you see the true meaning of what Micah True has created.
Most know the Tarahumara from the accounts in Born to Run in which the people are turned into characters and stories. What the book forgets to talk about are the women and the kids. Yes, these people are fantastic runners, but it’s not because they train for running, some might but most do not. They are not runners, but instead are survivors. This is not a race for them, it is a means to an end. Finishing this race can feed a family for 4-6 months. Watching women and kids (13 and over) run for food is something words cannot accurately portray. Looking deep into their eyes, running expressionless, it is quickly apparent they are on a mission for much more than a race finish. That’s not even secondary. It is the wristbands and vale that they are after.
This was most highlighted in the second place woman for the day. Maria Isidora Rodriguez would finish the day second a local Tarahumara from a neighboring village. I am not sure if she was the same woman but I am pretty sure she is the woman who walked up to the timing booth in the morning telling the men she wanted to run. They handed her a chip and I thought not much more about it. I was later told she spent the day before walking from her home to Urique with her child on her back to run the race. During the day she stood out to me as she was running in a full dress and shoes which were hardly made to walk a mile in let alone 50 miles of racing. She was so quiet and humble that I never saw her cross the finish line. Her eyes were set on the prize of finishing all day and showed no emotion as she raced. Later at the awards ceremony she got on stage with her child on her back to accept her prize of about $2,000 USD a life changing prize purse, as well as the vale she had earned. She stood among other stoic and vast contrast among the others she stood with. I was later told that Monday or Tuesday she would make the same day long walk home and return to normal life.
These are not trained runners but instead are just people trying to look out for their families the way you and I do, with the except many must walk 2-3km just to get water each day. Some live with modern amenities while others live without power, or water in their homes. The Tarahumara are a quiet people and watching them all day was awe inspiring. Thinking about what this race does and means for them will make even the most hardened athlete soften up. Another noteworthy athlete was Catalina Rascon the 13 year old who would take 6th place for the women…
Whether you participate or just watch this race, it will change the way you look at running, racing, and possibly life. It is the only race I know of where the locals are literally running for food. A finish in the top ten comes with a cash prize that can be life changing for a family. In the end all participants win, those who traveled there for far reaches experience a race and culture completely unique in todays society. It is much more than just a running event and instead really must be thought of as something else. Micah True aka Caballo Blanco is to thank for opening up this culture and magical part of the world with us all. The torch has been passed to Maria Walton and Josue Stephens who continue to try to attract those from around the world to experience just a piece of what Micah started.
It is to be noted the two Americans who finished in the top 10 Michael Versteeg and Ricky Gates donated back their winnings to the people. Michael gave his to a name who finished just out of the top 10 and Ricky donated his to whomever was the youngest finisher. A traditional within the race for the US racers.
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