Today was the commencement of the Ultra Adventures Monument Valley Ultramarathon series, where the 100 mile runners began the race in the early pre-dawn darkness. Those of us running the “short” distances (50-mile/5okm/25km) will start tomorrow morning.
Immediately after the start, the Race Director, Matt Gunn, had mentioned we could follow some aid station workers to a unique area of the Monument Valley (yes, the area seen in John Wayne westerns and the Forrest Gump movie). The area is not normally accessible to the public and is rarely accessible to anyone.
But with our Navajo guide and some easy 4wd off-roading (high clearance required), we reached an area where remnants of a civilization over 800 years old used to hunt and live and die and, probably, run.
We assisted the aid station workers getting set up and, after speaking with Navajo Guide Larry, who gave us excellent directions on where to hike for some of the most unique views on private land, we headed out for a hike to take some photos of the 100-mile runners in backgrounds never before captured to a camera (photos will be on selections.wickedinnocence.com in a few days).
The race itself takes place on the lands of the Navajo Nation, and while our friend Natasha and I helped set up the aid station, my wife ran in to two natives who, it turned out, had come out with their horses to… seriously… watch the runners.
While speaking with the Mom of the group, my wife inquired about a nearby Hogan as we knew little or nothing about it. Although mostly not used by the Navajo today, we learned that these early dwellings are believed to haunted when the person dies, and in honor of their spirit, the Navajo abandon it, never to enter it again. This, she said, allows the spirit to remain one with the land.
My race begins tomorrow, and I’m even less prepared than the last one. But after listening to Larry’s Navajo prayer prior to the race start, and listening to the song to the four directions, I’m hoping some of the spirits of the land I will run will feel pity and help my feet along. Certainly, the views seen by the 100 mile runners was inspiring.