The Monument Valley Tribal Park is truly one of the most majestical places in the South West. Though years ago I explored some of these parts as a rock climber, seeking infamous crack climbs in Canyonlands or squeezing my way up chimneys in desert towers, never had I run around such majestic desert spires. The Mittens, Three Sisters are just a couple names. Just a few weeks before I was on the phone with my long time friend, Nicky, running mentor and roomie from our college days at Dear ol’ Dartmouth. Back then our trail running consisted of loops around Occum Pond, scrambles along the Appalachian Trail and hill climbs at Oak Hill with the nordic ski team. Believe it or not it was not until last summer when I moved to Utah and joined the Grand Circle Trail series that I ran my first western trail race at the last of the Grand Circle Trail Series, The Tussahs. (By the way, the Tushars is not to be missed!)
I knew I wanted to run 4 races in the Grand Circle Trail Series. Any time I explore a new area, I love to do it as an adventure on foot. Having never been to this part of the West, it was a perfect time to make an adventure of it. Nick and I shared a love of running, and a love for the South West. Though a little undertrained after a winter of skiing more alpine than nordic, we set a goal to make it happen and it did!
For me the most magical part of the weekend was the involvement of the Navajo people. Seeing them running the courses of all distances, seeing them volunteering at aid stations or selling Navajo Pizza or announcing as finishers crossed the line made the entire experience of running a trail race so much more meaningful. Matt Gunn and his crew have dedicated time and energy to making this race happen here in these Navajo lands and make it truly a magical experience. Also a big part of this series is the people I have met and sharing stories, sitting by the campfire and seeing all these people come together in a love for running and being out there.
For me, much of my racing in the past 5-7 years has been set on training specifically for an event, getting in the right miles and interval workouts. This time it was really about being out there, being one with the land, the people and one’s self. There really was a magic in the air. It was about running happy.
One of my favorite memories of the race was climbing up the mesa and hearing a jingling behind me. For a moment I thought there was something on my pack that was jingling. I looked around and saw a dog, loping a long near us on the trail, almost as if he was looking after us along the way. He accompanied us to the top of the mesa and then had a rest at the top. Later, I learned it was Matt’s dog, who was from these lands. There was a peacefulness in the beauty of the place. We were all running for a cause of our own. Nick was running for her son and the foundation she started called Baby Alex Foundation.
Here is a Navajo Poem that I want to share that is fitting for the race as some ran, some walked but all reached the end and saw beauty all around.
In Beauty May I Walk- Navajo Prayer
In beauty may I walk;
All day long may I walk;
Through the returning seasons may I walk.
Beautifully will I possess again
Beautifully joyful butterflies…
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk;
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk;
With dew around my feet may I walk.
With beauty before me may I walk
With beauty behind me may I walk
With beauty above me may I walk
With beauty all around me,
may I walk.
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.
“In Beauty May I Walk” is a Navajo prayer that I have come to love. It is simply asking to do all things in life with beauty, illustrated through the metaphor of walking and in our case running.
As I write this post, I dedicate it to my cousin Sarah, a mother of four children, who tragically died this week at a young age. I was not able to be there at her service today but think of her as I share this blessing. She was a true mother and found beauty as she walked and will still find beauty where she rests. To Sarah, may you find beauty as you walk on.
I look forward to the next Grand Circle Trail Race adventure in discovering a new place where I have not explored, Zion April 9th. I feel blessed to be a part of this amazing Grand Circle Trail Family as an ambassador and look forward to the season ahead with the many races to come in the series! Bryce Canyon, Capital Reef, The Grand Canyon, Tushars.
Come Join us and discover these amazing places to run and be a part of something bigger, and in beauty may you run….