“If you’re lucky enough to be a runner, well then, you are lucky enough.”
– Hopi Saying

photo from last year’s Start Line at Old Oraivi…our nation’s oldest continually inhabited village (established in 1150). that’s pale face ilg, the only one with pecs, right behind last years and this years first place female winner, Alvina Begay – Olympian.


okay, so there was a time when ilg considered a podium to be no lower than 3rd place. that time ended when i became a father at age 46. i figure a span of 33 competitive years across 23 different sports allows a wee bit of leniency. anyone whose birth date precedes 1962 and has at least a couple of State Championships in a couple of different sports, is MORE than welcome to argue with me. besides, technically, a traditional podium goes 5 deep. so, with that clever rationalization, it’s true…i managed to climb aboard my 4th podium last sunday in as many different sports at the Old Oraivi 8k Footrace, deep in HopiLand.

you may recall the drama of my experience here last year (see DL Archives). this year was no less dramatic, having to travel to this venue after a long weekend of teaching and lecturing at the Flagstaff Yoga Festival. once again, my “race prep” was a hilarious by-product of Shiva’s chronic urge to Dance upon my intent to toe the Start Line.

i cannot say enough about this race. it ain’t a race…it’s like Imogene Pass Run…it’s an American Pilgrimage and it is deeeeep honor for me to do my best to participate in and promote this race. Race Director Juwan Nuvayokva – the Hopi Harrier – himself runs an absolutely exquisite venue amidst this impoverished mesa top that has been off the grid an eon before a ‘grid’ was even a glimmer of a thought. Juwan, a State Champion and now coach alongside my Hopi Father, has 20 State HS Championships to his credit. He starts organizing this race one year before Race Day and now in its 4th year, saw 148 racers toe the Start Line. Juwan knows full well the brunt of brutality that faces his Hopi Lineage…he was born and raised at Old Oraivi and man, if you could see the smiles on the kids faces as he hands out shoes and school supplies from Sponsors like Saucony and Walmart, you’d feel your heart skip a beat. This race is BIG MEDICINE for a Tribe that, like my Beloved Tibetans, possess an incredibly deep spirituality and because of their go(o)dliness, just keeps getting the you know what kicked out of them…politics slay their attempts to live in the White Man’s World, drought caused by White Man’s global warming is a serious threat as the aquifers now retreat below the level of their aged pumps and cisterns. Eating White Man’s “food” has caused obesity and disease among generations of Hopi and it is so deeply touching to see these brave people’s attempts at curbing this horrible Tribe-Wide pandemic of deadly dis-ease. If there was one race i’d like you to share with me, it would be this one. Juwan told me he is prepared to host 1,000 racers. I Trust him. i want you here, next to me on his Start Line, next year. It’s only 8k. i Know you can do it. There is also a 2 mile walk/run as well.

though i’ve been inviting my fans and friends to race with me on my various race ‘pilgrimages’ for decades, rare are the times when i have the honor of sharing races with my own students. Sunday, however, one did. Warrior Leaf…a Diné…and one of my star HP Yogi’s here in Kinlani, did what it took to toe the Start Line with me. and we had a blast…i mean that pranically. the Pranic Charge that you get when you visit these Holy Three Mesa’s of HopiLand is unlike any other vortex-hit i’ve experienced. this Place vibrates.

arriving in our self-called, “Runners Camp” a few miles away from the Start Line near the Hopi Cultural Center on Second Mesa, Warrior Leaf and i shared some dinner beneath an unfolding canvas of sacred stars and – of course – the omnipresent Rez Dog Beings. Warrior Leaf smiled at my embrace of these equally impoverished and starving Dog Beings.

“i have a soft spot in my heart for Rez Dogs,” i told him as i slapped some more spaghetti onto the dusty red earth in front of two wickedly skinny and salivating precious Dog Beings, “they reMind me of WF…always getting kicked in the teeth, misunderstood, ignored by the outer world, until one Angel out of every 600 people decides to give them some Love..and, perhaps more importantly; food!”

Warrior Leaf smiled and chuckled that hallmark Navajo chuckle. ilg can hang easily with Warrior Leaf. i love him. what stories he shared with me that night beneath the Hopi sky…his GrandDad who could only speak Navajo and worked for the railroad for 70 years…growing upon the Navajo Reservation near Thunder Mountain which we could see from here; completely off the grid, hauling water from a half mile away, kerosene lamps for light, and not so much as one scraggly pinon tree within sight…

“We kids had to use our imagination growing up. There was nothing else,” Warrior Leaf told me. “That’s what i love about your Yoga Classes; they always reConnect me in some sacred way to Ancient Things that i was taught growing up.”

There were the Rattlesnakes, too. “Yeah, sometimes we’d kick a ball under a bush and there would be a big ol’ Rattlesnack staring us down. So we’d get a shovel and haul him off somewhere.”

“You didn’t kill them, eh?” i queried into the now dark campsite.

“No,” he answered, “Bad Medicine.”

we spoke of more spiritual connections. Warrior Leaf was one of the relatively few that came to my Energetics Of Enlightenment during the Flagstaff Yoga Festival. he was doing astral sommersaults as i spoke about the Vayu – the Cosmic Winds within us. he was hooking up dots from the Navajo Creation Story…

In the creation of the Dine’ it is believed that 4 Gods came forth bearing 2 buckskins, 2 ears of corn and 2 eagle feathers.

A buckskin was laid upon the ground with its’ head toward the West. Next came the 2 ears of corn with their tips pointing towards the East. The second buckskin was carefully laid upon these with its’ head toward the East. Lastly, a white eagle feather was tucked under the white ear of corn;the yellow eagle feather placed under the yellow ear of corn.

From there the gods stepped back and allowed the Wind to enter. It blew from the East and from the West and moments later the tips of the eagle feathers began to twitch. The top buckskin was lifted from that signal and laying there was 1st Man & 1st Woman.

Therefore, it is the Wind that blows through all life forms and when it ceases to blow it signals death.

To connect the story of Dine’ Creation to present day with all its’ hussle-and-bussel it can seem out of grasp;one on each end of a spectrum. However, I, Warrior-Leaf, Dine’, can attest that the most powerful link for himself is WholisticFitness. It’s the spine-tingling connections that I witness day in and day out that keep me grounded.

Ahe’hee’ (thank you) immensely Coach!

This i Speak to you in in response to your Lecture and the Mula Bandha meditations.

for some Mysterious Hopi reason, neither one of us could really tell what time is was. i awoke in the predawn light and in a furious mayhem of movement, Warrior Leaf and i broke our camps and drove off across the sandstone bouldered mesa toward America’s oldest village. Hopi races always start with the Sunrise. And we were late.

fortunately, Juwan allows this race to begin a tad later than sunrise. good thing, because ilg was having a serious series of “Slim Cap Moments.” you have to be a SUNRIDER Warrior to understand the degree of gastrointestinal seriousness here. finding myself with my pants down, atop the mesa, wiping my butt feverishly with mullien leaves, dried cholla sticks, and chunks of sandstone…i could hear the Race Start announcements…geez, i am getting a bit old for this type of stress!

i managed my way onto the Start Line, probably not smelling all that enticing after camping and nearly pooping in my little running shorts. after several Hopi Races, i’ve got some friends on the Start Line and i chatted with them, in part, to keep my mind off the fact that my ‘warm up’ was non-existent and i had 45 minutes of high heart rate hell and heaven in front of me. i took my place, cleared my watch, and was off…sprinting downhill off the Mesa through the clatter of ancient Hopi homes and their People cheering in front of them and in the plaza. Their language is astonishingly beautiful and potent. it carries easily atop the wind and penetrates the heat from Grandfather Sun already hot and high over the mesas.

i went hard as i could down the hill, using what i thought was pretty fast downhill technique over the ridges, rocks, and ankle-deep dust. then, as i steady fell past the top twenty by the end of the 2k descent, i remembered against whom i was racing. The Hopi don’t run. They float. Since picture-taking is not allowed within these Villages (thankfully), i can only struggle to describe what Hopi running is like. It’s like beach running supersetted with stadium stair running in a continuum of pain and punishing terrain. actually, sand at least has some degree of friction for your feet. HopiLand is full of Red Earth dust. no friction. no traction. just energy-sapping feet slapping. unless you are Hopi and are part of a deeply sacred running lineage that predates all White Man history. Bruce Talawyma, a runner from the Hopi tribe, says, “Running is really a part of everything in traditional society. It was both a part of the daily life cycle—running to and from fields—and integral to the ceremonial dances throughout the year.” Young men would practice each evening, hoping to be chosen as the strongest runners to represent their clan in events such as the “stone kicking” races, where teams alternate kicking a shaped stone around a course of approximately seven miles, or to deliver an offering to the spirits at the sacred springs, sometimes up to 50 miles away. The best runners held a respected place as role models and representatives of the ideal in many tribal identities.

America’s first Olympian medalist was Hopi; Louis Tewanima came from right here, Second Mesa. Can you even TELL that there is America’s oldest cities a top these Mesas? Let us not forget to bow to the other Native Olympians;, Jim Thorpe, and Billy Mills.

in fact, Alvina Begay, an Olympian Navajo from nearby Ganado who now lives and trains in Flagstaff, passed me at nearly the same spot as last year, 2.5 k into it, right where the ‘sagebrush flats’ begin. i hung with her pace for about the same time as last year; all of about 60 seconds. she floated away into the sagebrush as i was left to my heaving and thumping upon Mother Earth.

i coulda just hit the REPEAT FROM LAST YEAR button. by the time i reached the 6k mark and the start of the 600′ torturefest of a soft dirt climb back atop the Mesa to the village, the same 3 guys that beat me last year were right in front of me. at one point, during the steepest section of the soft dirt climb, when we might as well been snowshoeing up the red dirt, i got to within 10 dang seconds to third place and 20 seconds to second place. calling upon every single one of the WF Deities, mantras, visualizations, and all my running technique affirmations was not enough. the guys in front of me reached the sandstone rimrock section and started to pull away. in the end, i would finish 40 seconds out of third place and less than 50 from second. though my time was 30 seconds faster than last year, i sank to 28 place out of 148, 4th place in my Age Group, and 3rd out of only 4 pale faces.

the guy that beat me out of third place was pale face. Jeff. he qualified for Boston this year. i felt decidedly out of place again; a Warrior of Wholeness trapped among the Running Specialists. at the Finish Line, i told Warrior Leaf that i just missed out again on 3rd place and the treasured Hopi medals i craved so badly…

“You were close,” said Warrior Leaf after we recovered from our Noble Effort in the Red Earth.

“Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades,” i reminded him.

he threw his head back and caked in Warrior Sweat and stunning Hopi summer heat, the Diné…he did laugh.

that’s why, “Hills make all men Brothers.”

though our skin may be of pink or red or brown hues, all of our hearts beat with an ancient Tribal Rhythm. we Two Leggeds, are all of the same Tribe.

May your spirit ride forever,
May the Truth be rode forever within your sweat,
and may we – you and i – toe a Start Line together
before the Bardo Start Line…

head bowed, feet blistered from a Red Earth 41:44 8k effort among the Natives of this amazingly beautiful Turtle Island,
coach ilg

Race Website:
Oraivi Footrace Website

Race Results & Times;
2009 Race Results

2010 Race Registration;
Toe The Start Line With Coach Next August!

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