Running for Rain - Page 2
Photo courtesy of the Paatuwaqasti 50K Run and Relay.
Just before the start, there is a ceremonial blessing for the runners, after which race director Bucky Preston stands at the line, as he has each year since it’s founding in 2003, and reminds competitors that “this is not a race.” The event’s motto explains this philosophy: “I run in reverence of all living things. In our prayers, may we always remember that water is life.” After five or six hours of hoofing it through the Arizona heat, you’ll seldom find a runner who disagrees with this statement.
“Putting Hopi life values and teaching at the forefront is the purpose of the run,” said Preston, “[In older times] a runner would take one of the many foot trails from the village in the early morning to a spring, take a drink and sprinkle himself with the cold water. ... They received strength and were healed of any ailments. Everything at Hopi involves water—water is life. Now, water is being abused. In some places, it is gone and I want to bring awareness to the people.”
The event continues long after the runners have crossed the finish line. Various speakers who work intimately with water usage in their respective communities make appearances, and all participants and volunteers are invited to a traditional Hopi meal. "The generosity of the Hopi, hosting this race and making visitors like myself welcome on their trails, is truly extraordinary. The material poverty that many of them endure is evident to anyone who runs around First Mesa, but this does not keep them from extending every kindness, from the encouragement and gratitude of volunteers and spectators all along the course, to the traditional meal served afterwards,” says runner Andy Roth, a repeat participant. Awards come in the form of handmade Hopi crafts.
Modern Hopi villages rely on crafts and tourism as there is no industry. Meyer explains the struggle to maintain traditional culture, “Sadly, many young people move away to cities to find work and careers. Many villagers still have traditional gardens but it is challenging due to lack of moisture … Some live in traditional manner (no electricity or running water), but most live a life in between.”