Archive for the 'Running' Category

Coyote still has something to teach us about running

Below is  a story in Runner’s World about a coyote who joined the 5K race at the recent AIA Cross Country State Championship in Phoenix, Arizona.

News reporters noted that the coyote only stayed in the race for 50 meters, and one AIA official jokingly suggested that he may have been chasing after The Road Runner.

But I believe that there was a far deeper reason why Coyote joined the race.

People back home talk about how Hopi runners of long ago learned to run by studying the running motions of various animals. I can only imagine what Coyote was thinking when he ran with the other runners at the AIA event:

“Look at me run. Observe my speed, strength, and grace. See how effortlessly I run alongside, behind, and ahead of you. I still have something to teach you.”

________________

Picture 2

A new running partner and those darn concrete slabs

Illinois is experiencing unseasonably warm weather. Today, it’s already in the low 70s, which is great weather to run in. Yesterday, I took advantage of the nice weather and hit the running trails near my neighborhood.

This winter I started running with a new friend named John who lives a block away from me. In the past I would usually run by myself. This is still the case, but once a week I run with John.

He is a stronger runner than me, which makes him a good running partner. And he’s already saved me from two potentially really bad spills. They both happened when we were running on uneven sidewalks with trip lips sticking up from between the concrete slabs.

While running at a decent pace, I tripped over those lips, lunged forward, and John quickly turned around each time to catch my fall. Had it not been for John, I would have hit the pavement face first – a bloody mess for sure!

So my near falls have taught me a few lessons: pay better attention to those darn concrete slabs, don’t let your feet drag (easy to do when you’re tired), and keep John running in the lead.

Running through exhaust

Illinois cornfield and rural road - Photograph by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

On Friday of last week I went on a run that brought me to the middle of corn fields outside the city of Champaign, Illinois. As I plugged away on a country road, a large truck drove by and I got a mouth full of exhaust. This is one of my least favorite parts about running on rural roads.

But it reminded me of Hopis during the 1910s and 1920s who “ate exhaust” in many marathons that they competed in. It was not uncommon for newspaper reporters or race officials to drive their automobiles 10 or 15 feet in front of the lead runners.  Some runners were so overcome with exhaust that they quit.

Back out at Hopi, runners did not have to contend with automobile exhaust, but when they competed in events beyond the mesas, it became a serious issue for them to manage.

It’s difficult enough to run long distances with high heat and humidity, and sore legs and feet, but adding the heavy exhaust element to running must have seemed unbearable.

And yet the vast majority of Hopi runners pressed on to complete (and sometimes win) the marathons that they started.

For the runners, the exhaust was simply another obstacle for them to overcome. It was one more hurdle for them to navigate through when they ran beyond their homelands in northeastern Arizona.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

A Hopi runner and his marathon trophy

Photograph by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Most people who visit the Sherman Indian Museum in Riverside, California, see this first place trophy without knowing who won it. Marathon officials did not engrave the athlete’s name on the trophy, but they did include the date and the event, which was the Vallejo Pre-Olympic National Marathon held in California on December 22, 1929.

At one point in the school’s history, the student’s at Sherman Institute knew who won this award. But as time passed, the trophy, one of the largest in the Museum’s collection, became disassociated from its owner.

The trophy belongs to Hopi runner Harry Chaca from the village of Polacca on First Mesa. He was among the great Hopi runners of the twentieth century. Chaca attended Sherman in the 1920s and early 1930s and he earned several marathon honors while a student at the school.

I wrote about Chaca and his victory of the 1929 Vallejo Pre-Olympic National Marathon in my article “Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930″ (American Quarterly, March 2010). I note that prior to this event, Chaca had won other prestigious marathons and his reputation as a great runner spread far beyond the United States.

In Japan, for example, a runner named Yoshikio Sudsuki heard that Chaca was the best runner in America and so he traveled to the U.S. for the sole purpose of competing against the Hopi from Polacca. But at the 1929 Vallejo Pre-Olympic National Marathon, Chaca’s speed and endurance proved too much for the forty-nine year old runner from Tokyo. In my article I write that the

Hopi runner ran at a “killing pace to win” the full marathon in two hours, forty-one minutes, and twenty-five seconds, a “full second better than the performance of Alpien Stenroos” in the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. One of the fifty thousand spectators of the marathon recalled that Chaca’s “victory” was “all the more noteworthy for his sensational finish. After trailing for twenty-three miles it was at that mark that he applied a final burst of speed that sent him ahead” of Hopi runner Franklin Suhu. In addition to winning the race, Chaca set a new American marathon record, which immediately confirmed his place as the top long-distance runner in the nation. [p. 91]

Shortly after Chaca’s marathon victory, school officials took his trophy and displayed it in a large cabinet located in Sherman’s administration building (now the Sherman Indian Museum). According to school administrators, all individually won trophies belonged to the school.

At times Hopi students attempted to obtain their trophy cups after their terms at Sherman had expired.  During the 1940s, for example, Hopi runner Philip Zeyouma asked the school’s superintendent if he could reclaim his trophies (pictured on the front cover of American Quarterly), but school officials refused to honor his request.

More than eighty years after Chaca won the Vallejo Pre-Olympic National Marathon, his trophy remains at the Sherman Indian Museum. Although government officials consider the award to be property of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the trophy will always belong to Harry Chaca and his family.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Hopi runners in the audience

I recently returned from attending the American Indian Studies Association (AISA) Conference in Tempe, Arizona. I delivered a paper titled “Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930.” This paper, in its article form, will appear next month in American Quarterly. I was happy to see that some Hopis came to my talk, including two students from ASU. Since I first presented on this topic, I cannot recall the last time I had Hopi long distance runners in the audience. Both of these students were runners.

After the session I talked at length with the students about how the world focuses so much attention on Louis Tewanima, but back home our people realize that while Tewanima was good, other Hopi runners were just as good or better than the famous Olympian from Shungopavi. Although these students already knew about Tewanima, they had not heard of the other runners that I mentioned in my paper. I also did not know about these runners before I started this project.

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a faculty at the University of Illinois is the opportunity I have to make my research available and meaningful to the Hopi community. This has always been the driving force behind my work.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert


Copyright Notice

© Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About the author

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert is enrolled with the Hopi Tribe from the village of Upper Moencopi in northeastern Arizona. He is an associate professor of American Indian Studies & History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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A Second Wave of Hopi Migration (History of Education Quarterly, August 2014)

Sun Chief: An Autobiography of A Hopi Indian by Don C. Talayesva, New foreword by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert (Sept. 2013)

Marathoner Louis Tewanima and the Continuity of Hopi Running, 1908-1912 (Western Historical Quarterly, Autumn 2012). Winner of Spur Award for Best Western Short Nonfiction, Western Writers of America (2013)

“Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930″, American Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 1, March Issue 2010 (Click image to download article)

Hopi runner Philip Zeyouma’s trophy cups featured on cover of American Quarterly

Education beyond the Mesas: Hopi Students at Sherman Institute, 1902-1929 (University of Nebraska Press, 2010)

Education beyond the Mesas – Introduction (click image to download)

“‘The Hopi Followers': Chief Tawaquaptewa and Hopi Student Advancement at Sherman Institute, 1906-1909″, Journal of American Indian Education, (Click image to download article)

The Indian School on Magnolia Avenue: Voices and Images From Sherman Institute (Oregon State University Press, 2012)

Arizona English Teachers Association highlights Hopi authors (click image to download)

Constitution and Bylaws of the Hopi Tribe (With all amendments, click to download)

Click to listen to KUYI On-Line

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