Toward the Rising Sun - Page 5
The next morning, at dawn, Shaun drives us a few miles outside of town for a morning run, with expansive views of the Chinle valley. En route, he plays traditional Navajo prayer songs on his iPod. "This is what I listen to before my morning runs," he says. The songs are peaceful, rhythmic, symmetric, even drones of prayer, each repeated four times—once to the north, the south, the east and the west. It almost sounds like steps, a beat and prayer you could run to. Shaun pulls off the highway and slows the truck to a crawl. He cranes out the window searching for the trail, a snaking slice of singletrack that winds up onto a rocky ridge and dips into a sage flat on the other side.
We begin our ascent, Shaun effortlessly gliding up the steep embankment as I falter and slip on the sandy earth. Every now and then we lose the trail, but he traverses the field easily and we pick it up again. His steps are small, precise, his body leaning slightly forward. We stop and gaze into the valley, as Shaun points out landmarks. "Like the sacred Navajo symbol of a circle, a person must be whole, balanced," he says. "There is a positive and a negative to everything. When negative events happen, you have to find the positive in them so you can keep moving forward. A lot of people focus on the physical side of running. After that, they focus on the mental. But Navajos, we focus on the spiritual." We turn toward the valley and stride along in silence.
* Canyon de Chelly. Though a National Park, the canyon is located within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation and therefore remains under Navajo ownership.
* The Long Walk. In the 1860s, the United States army forced over 10,000 Navajo and Mescalero Apaches to walk hundreds of miles to Fort Sumner, on the Pecos River of New Mexico. Almost a third of the Native Americas held captive there, died of hunger and disease.
* Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run. While today it is one of the most competitive ultrarunning events in the world, the course was first completed by five horseman in 1955 to prove that horses could cover 100-miles in a day. It became an annual event known as the Tevis Cup 100-Miles-One Day Ride. In 1974, Gordy Ainsleigh, who had previously ridden the course, completed the race on foot. And the first official foot race took place two years later.