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  • Four minutes after the 7 a.m. start, gazing at the back-illuminated West and East Mittens, just before sunrise, fine brown sand under our feet and crisp air in our lungs.
  • As the sun peeped over the hill, it seemed our path led straight to it.
  • West Mitten bathed in golden light from the still-low sun.
  • The Navajo course marshals constantly encouraged everyone.
  • Be sure to heed the signs at the Mitchell Mesa turnaround – just steps beyond is a 1,000-foot precipice! This is at mile 12 of the 50 mile and mile 8.5 of the 50K.
  • Mexican runner Adan Castro at the turnaround, high above the Mittens and everything else!
  • Jack Jewell reaches for the sky inside the Big Hogan. Special thanks to the woman who took this photo. She asked me to take her photo, so I laid down in the sand to get her and the window in a single frame. She then did the same with my camera - perfectly.
  • On the last section of the course, we were up close and personal with the towering rocks; at top center is Bear and Rabbit, in the Stagecoach group.
  • At 8:25 p.m., darkness had fallen, but not our spirits.

Photo Gallery: 2017 Monument Valley 50

Scenes from the 2017 Monument Valley 50-miler.

Jack Jewell April 19th, 2017

In Navajo lore, Monument Valley is said to have been the Gods’ playground. Situated in the desert along the Utah-Arizona border, its towering rock features have poetic names like Rain God Mesa, Ear of the Wind and Sun’s Eye.

The modern Navajo Nation has been gracious enough to allow race company Ultra Adventures to hold a very special running event through the land. The Monument Valley 50 features distances from four miles to 50, and is steeped in Navajo culture, including Navajo celebratory ceremonies.

But on March 25, 2017, as I toed the 50-mile start line, instead of romantic-sounding gods, my head was full of demons. I am 63 years old, and hadn’t run 50 miles for over two years. In that time, I had only run two 50Ks. My peak training run was 17 miles, two weeks before the race. Three years earlier I had witnessed the spellbinding grandeur of Monument Valley in the 50K event, and wanted to immerse myself in it again. But could I finish?

Friends and family supported me, mostly from afar, and the hundreds of people racing that day exuded a positive energy running that made the magical terrain even more special.

I like to share these experiences, and so I carried a full-frame mirrorless camera, weighing about 1lb 12oz – as if I needed to make the race harder.

13 hours, 35 minutes, 50 miles and 150 photos later, I finished well ahead of the 15-hour cutoff, and just moments before a cold rain settled over the valley in the windy darkness. I like to think that the Navajo deities approved of our presence and helped us celebrate their playground.

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2 Comments on "Photo Gallery: 2017 Monument Valley 50"

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Robert
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Beautiful country side – thanks for sharing

Bryan
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WOW, some of those pictures look like cartoon paintings they are so beautiful! Thank you.

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