Ultramaraton Caballo Blanco - May 3, 2013 – Urique, Chihuahua, Mexico
By Race Directors: Josue Stephens and Maria Walton
“While they are at war, we come together to create peace and hope at the bottom of a deep canyon in the middle of nowhere; nowhere but beauty, to create peace and run free. What more is there?” - Micah True (1953-2012).
On 3/13, the pueblo of Urique, Chihuahua became alive as 137 International Mas Locos, 170 Mexican Nationals, and over 350 legendary Raramuri athletes, shared the valleys and peaks of the rippled earth of Las Barrancas del Cobre (The Copper Canyons) for the 11th annual, 50 mile Ultramaraton Caballo Blanco. The Raramuri athletes represented all four municipios (counties) that make up the Copper Canyon region of Northwestern Mexico.
This year’s race was a memorial celebration honoring not only the legacy of the original Race Director, Micah True, El Caballo Blanco, but a dedication to the tragic loss of Urique government’s Presidente, Leobardo Diaz, and his associate, Rafa Ramirez, who perished in a vehicular accident along a canyon road on February 9th. Micah’s simple dream was to run free with the Raramuri, encouraging the continued development of running as a central element in the culture of the people, one that evoked reverent enchantment, where the experience became an intercultural exchange between the Raramuri running legends and the ultra runners of the modern world.
Urique’s Director of Tourism, Cecy Villalobos was instrumental in promoting the race among the state of Chihuahua, and throughout Mexico. She coordinated all official race ceremonies between the international runners, corporate sponsors, and families of Mexico.
The pre-race journey began on Tuesday, February 26 in the town of Cerocahui, at Rancho Del Oso, where the international runners are greeted by the local Tarahumara children who playfully shared their traditional race activities. The students and teachers of the community shared meals, photos and stories of their perspective countries. Afterwards, everyone honors the Raramuri spirit of Korima, which symbolized a circle of sharing, a practice of giving freely from the heart, with sincere generosity, having no expectations of return, or thanks of gratitude for the simple act of giving, to act out of love with no attachment to results.
The following morning, the group departed on a beautiful, 18-mile hike through narrow canyons, a 1,200 foot climb in six miles, which gradually descended into the steep and rocky downhill trails leading into the vast, 6,200 foot Urique Canyons. The hike was led by ultra running legend, photographer and one of the original Dream Team runners, featured in Christopher McDougall’s best- selling book Born to Run, Luis Escobar. He shared this sacred oath, “Raise your right hand, and repeat after me, if I get hurt, lost or die, it’s my own damn fault, Amen.” There was no turning back from the journey which lay ahead.
As the week progressed, the athletes enjoyed group hikes along the race course visiting the towns of Urique, Guadalupe Coronado, and Los Alisos, later comforted in a healing ceremony of a traditional Temazcal (Sweat Lodge) at Cabanas San Isidro. Friday evening, the runners honor the Raramuri, with a shared, traditional pre-race dinner of a rich stew consisting of fresh beef, beans, and hand patted corn tortillas. At the Raramuri campgrounds, each family receives donated blankets for their weekend stay.
While staying in Urique, Micah’s original race sponsors, Mama Tita Quintana, owner of La Plaza Restaurante, and Prospero Torres, proprietor of the ranch at Los Alisos, proudly shared memories of their support of Micah’s vision. Their genuine passion and enthusiasm for the spirit of the race, was contagious.
Saturday morning, the community celebrated the Inaugural Corrida de los Caballitos, (Little Pony), Kids’ race, as over 470 children, ranging in ages of 6-13, ran a thrilling 3K. Every child was a winner, receiving donated race shirts, finisher medals, and a bag of school supplies. All supplies were generously donated by Staples, PF Chang's, Marathon Kids and Mas Loco runners who came down to run.
On Sunday morning, the race began at 6 am, as the Raramuri runners blazed the trails from the very beginning. The race itself covers 51 miles in the heart of Urique, with climbs and descents of approximately 10,600 feet. The course consists of three parts, a 22 mile section heading north out of the town, traveling in a large “Y” formation to the tiny settlements of Guadalupe Coronado and Mesa Naranjo, approximately 2,000 feet above Urique. The second leg of 18 miles heads south out of town, scaling tiny, single track trails up to a ranchito, the grapefruit orchards of Los Alisos. Aid stations are fully supplied with fresh fruit, Pro-Bars, water, electrolyte sports drink, and the traditional fuel of the Raramuri people, Pinole, roasted corn and water. The final route is an 11 mile out-and-back to Guadalupe Coronado, finishing in the center of Urique’s main street.
Runners were humbled by the power of the Canyons, as the human spirit was awakened both on spiritual and physical level. Athletes were enlightened athletes by the personal challenge to overcome the distance and heat, fueled by the message of hope, peace and love.
Each participant of the race, who completed every loop, was awarded vouchers (Vales), which provided Raramuri families the opportunity to purchase needed food supplies for the sustenance of their community. It is the tradition for the international athletes who earn the Vales to offer it to the Raramuri and related organizations such as local schools, clinics and orphanages. The prize money for the top ten male and female finishers was awarded from the government of Urique.
Micah passionately supported the U.S. based non- profit, Nora was de Raramuri (Friends of the Running People), which was formed in July of 2009, by Club Mas Locos, working together to establish and maintain a flow of resources necessary for the Raramuri people to strengthen their extraordinary running culture. This year, Norawas donated over $27,000 in vales to the Raramuri families - http://norawas.org
We had over 550 starters and 246 finishers. Over 375 Raramuri participated, many of them running all 4 loops to win the 5 corn vouchers available to them (over 620lbs of corn per runner).
In the men's field, Ranulfo Sanchez of Puebla, Mexico broke Raramuri Champion Miguel Lara's 2012 course record by over 7 minutes in a time of 6:33. However, Miguel was not far behind, breaking his own 2012 course record with a 6:37 finish! Silvino Cubesare, one of the original Raramuri who ran with Micah, placed 3rd with a time of 6:40. Former NYC Marathon champion German Silva and Japanese ultrarunning phenom Hiroki Ishikawa were in a close 4th and 5th place.
In the women's field, Irene Vazquez of Mexico City broke Beatriz Mendez' 2 year streak with a time of 8:38. Beatriz Mendez of Chihuahua City came in 2nd with a time of 9:00. Full Results can be seen HERE - Please keep in mind the course was made 3+ miles longer in 2009.
We would like to thank all of our friends and supporters, this would not be possible without you. Saucony, Pro-Bar, Norawas, TeeChia, Marathon Kids, Staples, PF Chang's, Flintland, LUNA Sandals, Entre Amigos, Mama Tita's, Presidencia de Urique, Fuego y Agua Events, Luis Escobar Photography and all Mas Locos! If we missed anyone, please forgive us, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
Micah’s warm, earthly presence will be deeply missed. Yet, his generous spirit forever remains among the people and land he deeply loved, his brothers, sisters, and children of Las Barrancas del Cobre.
“When the message we carry is of truth, peace, beauty and love, we will always have the strength to find our way home, on this our beautiful Mother Earth.”
all photography provided by Luis Escobar Photography. Please do not use any of these photos without permission.