Running My First Half Marathon
The following story was provided by Jared Massey, UNITY staff member and former National UNITY Council Executive Committee Co-President.
It’s amazing how much one can overcome and defeat; its amazing how resilient Native youth can be. Overcoming challenges in life is like running up a mountain that seems unending; it’s both painful and can cause hurt. Overcoming the rough terrains of the mountain builds strength and perseverance, much like life’s obstacles, you grow through each unexpected challenge.
As I ran the Arizona P.F. Changs Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon I thought of the youth I’ve crossed paths with, from the young girl who contemplated suicide, to the young people located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, to the youth I read about in a book called “Eagle Blue,” to the youth of my own community of 7-Mile on the White Mountain Apache Reservation, and of course to my little sister who is border line diabetic. I ran those 13.1 miles for these future leaders and over-comers. People often ask, “Why would you punish yourself and run that long?” I’m sure the 22,000 plus participants were asked the same question. I imagine they too had their reasons for running the race, and I’m sure many prayed the same prayer I prayed as I ran, which was a prayer of prosperity, good health, success, protection, and favor for loved ones. I also kept in mind the elders of our great nations, had it not been for these beautiful teachers we would not be able to call ourselves Indigenous, Native American, Indian, powerful, great, Navajo, and White Mountain Apache.
The morning of the race was one that both frightened and excited me. As I met the darkness of early morning I turned to the east and lifted my hands to thank God for waking me up to another day. I began to change into my brand new running gear and gathered my things to join the many other runners waiting at the light rail station. Each runner embraced me with a smile but they too looked as if they were preparing for death. Strangely, that brought me comfort. The run was very organized, and it was awesome to see young people like myself warming up and preparing for the 13.1 miles. Being that it was my first time participating in a Half marathon I was clueless on the placement of runners. I took a wild guess with my guesstimated finish time and was placed in Corral 1, which was where all the elite runners were placed. Due to my lack of confidence and nervousness I moved a corral down, only because I was literally running late and arrived shortly after the gunshot was fired. I felt as if I was back in high school, running for the Alchesay Falcons Cross-Country team. That same fear and excitement returned and met me at the starting line of the race. My cross-country coach Mr. Melvin Yazzie taught me many things and one was to stay with the pack of runners, two, find a runner and stick with them until you pick them off. Throughout the race I kept this in mind and when I would see another Native I stayed with them until I passed them. I guess that was the Apache in me. As a child I could recall my grandparent’s sharing stores about my ancestors and how I was a descended of a great Apache band, a band that was shared with the Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache people. These stories were about the quickness and athleticism of the Apache men, and their ability to run countless miles without stopping. I remember while I was approaching mile nine of the half marathon I closed my eyes and imagined myself running through the beautiful White Mountains of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.
I can’t say the P.F. Changs Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon was easy, and I can’t say it was hard, because when you think about why you’re running and who you’re running for, everything else is irrelevant, your pain and tiredness goes away. I ran and prayed, ran and prayed, ran and prayed, until the very end of the race. I know I didn’t run in vain, and I’m anticipating the day when the people of Indian Country will be more prosperous mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Life is a race, and one must continue to run the race that was set fourth before them. Success, prosperity, and your reward lie at the finish line.