With minor groans and gasps, a concentric circle of athletes gathered behind the Taos Pueblo Powwow announcer’s booth to reach for the sky, swivel their heads and reach for the earth – stretching morning muscles and crunching out sleepy bones. At the center was Dr. Anthony Fleg, warming up the contingent of runners and walkers who gathered to put in some quality miles. Standing in the oval atop the tall grass field were runners of all ages – eager to hit the course.
For the third year in a row, the annual Taos Pueblo Powwow Fun Run and Walk took place at the powwow grounds – attracting several participants from all over the region. This year’s event included Fleg and some very special guests from down south – causing the number of 5K runners and 1-mile walkers to swell to a hearty assemblage.
“This year, we collaborated with a group called Running Medicine,” said Paula Tsoodle, Taos Pueblo Health and Fitness coordinator and race co-director. “They will be assisting us to get our own Running Medicine group together here at Taos Pueblo.”
Running Medicine is an organization out of Albuquerque and is “based on the understanding that running and exercise is a beautiful and potent medicine for mind, body, and spirit. Formed as a program of the Native Health Initiative, their vision is to create a culture of wellness through a supportive, loving community.”
As one of the program founders, Fleg made the trip to Taos to attend a planning meeting and run in the 5K. “We believe the Running Medicine program has the ability to cross a lot of barriers [as only sports can],” said Fleg, who organizes several running events throughout the greater Albuquerque metro area. “Outreach to local communities and efforts to create cultures of wellness is a big part of our core values.”
This year’s event was similar to last year’s format with a separate route for the walkers, who headed in the opposite direction of the runners from the same starting line.
Race coordinators mixed up the running course a bit this year – traversing the same path as last year’s race, only in reverse. The 5K runners experienced a relatively flat start – climbing slightly out of the powwow grounds toward Taos Mountain before dropping down to a tree-lined service road and back to the powwow grounds, setting the stage for a gauntlet of supporters cheering the finishers. “We tried to make the finishing stretch a little cooler for the runners,” said Macrina Lefthand, who also co-directed the race.
When asked to offer closing remarks, Tsoodle praised all the runners who took advantage of the opportunity the powwow provided to gather as a unified running community.
With a strong emphasis on participation and inclusion, the fun run/walk was not a timed event and there was no cost to enter. There also were no age groups or categories, nor recognition for top performers. However, Kaisa Sandy, a Taos Pueblo runner, was the overall winner.
The Taos Pueblo Health and Fitness program continued its fitness week with an all-inclusive running camp for youth ages 6-18 at Picuris Pueblo July 10-11. This camp was sponsored by Wings of America – a Native youth development program whose purpose is to empower young children and families through the sport of running. Held in partnership with the Picuris Diabetes Prevention programs, participants were treated to a wide array of running activities and games.
Also on the agenda this week was the Taos Pueblo Spirit of Hoops Basketball Camp for youth and children ages 5-18 that took place July 12-13 at the Taos Pueblo Community Center gym.
On the horizon is the third annual Rock the Ridge 5K run. That race is slated to take place on Oct. 7 and is part of the Pueblo Crossroads running circuit.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Running Medicine program is encouraged to attend a second planning meeting at the Taos Pueblo Community Center gym July 13 at 6 p.m. Everyone in the Taos community is invited and welcome to participate.