Ultra Maratón Caballo Blanco
It was 2017 and a larvae of a plan to return to the Copper Canyons had formed.
I had gone before in 2013 after Micah True and Christopher McDougal’s book “Born to Run” had captured the story of the Caballo Blanco Race and the Tarahumara runners. I knew I had to go.
Arriving in Urique again a few days before the race felt good ..very good. We found our accommodation which was just off the main street and promptly went to one of the most important places …the Plaza Restaurant more well known as Mama Titas. Easy to find since outside is the memorial to Micah with the words "While they're at war, we come together to make peace here at the bottom of a canyon." …a sentiment that continues to resonate loudly. We hugged Mama Tita and sat down to a meal washed down with cold Tecate.
Race day at 4am …the alarm goes off. Not much to do other than grab some food, get dressed and walk the short distance to the start line. Hugs abound and we nearly forgot to collect the first bracelet to indicate a start. It went from dark to early light almost at the point where the race started. Heading out of town on the first loop was amazing, pals around and Tarahumara heading off at a fair pace.
Later round the church at Guadalupe and it was time to start retracing the route – it would be many hours before we would return here on the final 14km. This section of the course is on a good double track dirt road so it is easy to relax and enjoy the views up towards the top of the canyon. My only concern was coming out the Scottish winter, my feet were still soft having been used to socks and shoes ..time would tell.
The next section of single track is my favourite bit of the course – it feels familiar and the closest the canyons comes to feeling like a Scottish Hill Race. Pace is very much dictated by the terrain and that of other runners around you. I had a eclectic bunch with other gringos mixed in with local Tarahumara and Mexican nationals – common language was established as smiles and facial expressions indicating it was starting to get hot.
Back in town, the atmosphere was incredible. Again pals who weren't running were out shouting support and the locals had really gotten into the spirit and making every runner feel special. Pace lifted and it was impossible not to smile and shout gratitude back.
On the other side of town and it was time to concentrate for the long out and back. The road is tough ..very tough indeed and keeping things sensible key. Go too quick here and you’ll pay big style.
By now the soles of my feet were complaining and the hot spots had turned into blisters. I stopped, taped them up best I could, adjusted the straps and headed back down the trail. I stopped again in Guapalaina for another bottle of Coke knowing it would fuel the return to Urique.
Arriving back in town, I could relax …life was good. There was only a 14km out and back to do and I was well within the cut off time so “all” I had to do is keep moving.
Back on the familiar trail the kms were passing by. Nothing quick and well down on my 2013 time but it didn’t matter …I was enjoying being somewhere beautiful sharing the experience with those around me.
My situation wasn’t ideal since in addition to nippy feet, my stomach had decided that it was no longer up for taking on any more water – not a huge issue with only around 5km to go.
At the edge of Urique, it got dark …like someone had turned the lights off as the sun went down. The last few hundred metres was like a disco …music, flashing lights and suddenly it was over.
I can only say this from my own perspective but more than anything, it proves how great humanity can be. Despite all our different lives, we are pretty much the same – we all love our families, need somewhere safe to sleep and need food in our bellies. The race has changed in the time I’ve known it – now much bigger and sadly, it feels as if some of the key people involved in the earlier days don’t get the recognition I feel they deserve. The upside is that more people than ever get to experience the simple beauty of running free, deep in a place that is hard to get to. I hope this event continues to be a focus for the Copper Canyons and going by the kids race, the next generation is going to keep the Tarahumara traditions alive.
To everyone who has been part of this adventure, thank you from the bottom of my heart - it means everything.
Corre Libre amigos …