*as published by UltraRunning Magazine
Ultra Marathon Caballo Blanco 2017
The legend says the first coin thrown into the Trevi Fountain ensures you will for sure return to Rome. For runners that have traveled to the Sierra Tarahumara, this is accomplished simply by taking their first running stride among the majesty that is the Copper Canyons. This year, a group of more than 20 long time Mas Locos and first time adventurers headed out from Phoenix, Arizona for what would again prove to be a truly a magical week.
We squeezed into several vans and trucks, and loaded up the gear and donations from race sponsors Mas Korima, the 100 Mile Club and Luna Sandals. We even had over 200 pounds of race medals that had been given by runners from all over the country to share with the finishers of the Saturday ‘Caballitos Runs’ that this year had over 10000 young runners participate in.
While the Ultra Marathon Caballo Blanco (UMCB) is surely the big event and is incredibly special, it represents just the grand finale of the entire experience. Simply reaching the Canyons is itself a worthy excursion filled with border crossings, mountain passes, lonely roads, guacamole, frijoles, and stories of previous trips. After a 14 hour drive on day 1, we met up with many more Mas Locos in Creel, the gateway to the Copper Canyons. That evening’s dinner included live Mariachi music while we emptied the restaurant of avocados, salsa and tortillas. Afterward, a big group finished out the night participating in the ‘Blue Sotol Margarita’ tradition.
The next morning, after an exhilarating run atop Creel in the storied Valley of the Monks, we headed out for our next two evenings accommodations - a beautiful ecolodge atop Urique Canyon (and just 12 miles and a 5000 ft. decent from the Ultra’s start line). We, of course, stopped along the way in Divisidero for the best Gorditas on the planet! Highlights at the lodge included runs on gorgeous trails to a Raramuri community (lead by legendary champion Miguel Lara and his wife Maribelle), sitting around an evening campfire listening to the rhythmic drum-playing of our Shaman friend Alejandro as we watched the most beautiful sunset ever, and an incredible Temezcal sweat lodge cultural experience.
First on our agenda upon descending into Urique Canyon was to meet at Los Alisos, an oasis that is also on the Caballo Blanco course, where we would celebrate the wedding of two special friends. That evening, back in town, the festivities continued at the famous Plaza Restaurant (Mama Tita’s) where a birthday and anniversary celebration just added to the party.
The Caballitos Runs Saturday morning have truly become a highlight of the week and an opportunity for families from throughout the Sierra Tarahumara to participate in the UMCB fun. Ultra Runners join in with the Municipality and local volunteers to pass out sponsored shirts, hats, scarves, medals, and toys to the young athletes. There is a after party with a clown, music, and food, but for sure the best part is watching these young runners give it their all as they race through the streets of Urique. For those that run along with them and try to keep up, the knowledge that the running culture of these lands is alive and well is very apparent.
Sunday morning over 800 Tarahumara, Mexican National and International runners from throughout the world gathered in the center of Urique to begin their 80K journey of what is surely one of the most awe-inspiring courses anywhere. This year temperatures hovered in the low 90’s with direct sun throughout the day. Ranulfo Sánchez won his third UCMB race with a time of 6:38. Veracruz Anahí Rivera Olmedo, with a time of 8:17, finished first among a group of incredible female athletes – many of which ran the race in traditional skirts and blouses while wearing huaraches or plastic slippers on the dusty, and at times, very technical terrain.
While much has changed over the 15 years since our friend Caballo Blanco (Micah True) organized that first simple race, the beauty of the lands, the culture, and the peoples who call the lands home remain a constant. Micah said “we are the Messengers”. Our message this year: Please come join us and experience the magic next year.