Mike Vidakovich
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

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May 28, 2011
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Native American way of life a great example for all

"Everything of virtue springs from the soil. Civilization always comes along to ruin it. But you can always find the truth if it comes from the earth."

- Knut Hamsun

It's always troubling to me when I come across yet another story that tells of mankind's destructive ways, infatuation with the almighty dollar and disrespect for the land on which we live.

I've always believed that our precious natural resources, now more than ever, should be the top priority for the current inhabitants of Earth and its future occupants. The human species doesn't seem to understand that the land on which we live is sacred and should be treated as such.

As the hours and days pass into the autumn of a lifetime, I find myself more respectful of the Native Americans that came before us, and the way they valued the land, while continuing to be mystified by, and distance myself from, my own culture.

I recently stumbled upon an old Sports Illustrated article on the Internet which told the story of a Pueblo Indian mountain runner named Al Waquie. The article was penned in 1988 and it chronicled the life and accomplishments of Waquie, who was a multiple winner of races such as the Pikes Peak Marathon, the grueling La Luz Trail Run to the top of Sandia Crest Mountain near Albuquerque, N.M., and the 1,575-step Empire State Building Run in New York.

Reading about Waquie's race victories wasn't what caught my attention and interest as much as his love and appreciation for the land and the mountain trails that he frequented on his daily training runs.

"I run as a way of being closer to the earth and gaining harmony with the land," Waquie stated in the SI article. "This is the spiritual foundation of my culture. When I am up in the sacred places, I just don't want to come down."

Waquie's activities were all tied to the land; hunting, farming, raising livestock, wood chopping and helping to fight forest fires. He was most comfortable, and at peace, on his two-hour runs in the wilds that surround his hometown of Jemez Pueblo, N.M, where he often encountered deer, elk, cougars and bears.

"The animals have gotten used to me. They look upon me as a friend," said Waquie, who would sing the spiritual songs of his tribe while running in the mountains.

Waquie was a two-year All-American cross country runner at Haskell Indian Junior College in Lawrence, Kan. He turned down offers from several four-year schools who recruited him, to return home to the reservation and live by the ancient traditions that he was comfortable with - being a steward of the land, taking only what is needed to survive, and carrying on the beliefs of his people.

I can understand why Waquie wanted to return to his world and leave us to ours.

On Saturday, June 4, area runners will have a choice of two quality races.

In Silt, the Run/Walk For Their Lives 5K will take place at the Stoney Ridge ball field at 8:30 a.m. The race is a benefit for the Pauline S. Schneegas Wildlife Foundation in Silt.

In Glenwood, on the same day, is the new Mountain to Valley 10-mile and four-mile runs, which benefit Mountain Valley Developmental Service and The Foundation For Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics.

I'm hoping to see a big crowd turn out at Glenwood Elementary School the following weekend on June 11 for the Paul Driskill Memorial 5K Race and Kids Fun Run. Paul's run is a fitting way to honor the man, who for decades was the symbol of running on the Western Slope before passing away last Christmas Eve.

I always said Paul reminded me of a cross between a Christmas elf and a biblical prophet. His nature was of calm and quiet. He was man of very few words, but as tough of a competitor as you would see when he laced up the running shoes and waited for the starting gun to sound.

Don't miss the starting gun on June 11. Come to run or come and walk, but most of all, come to honor a local legend.

It's Paul's run.

Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer for the Post Independent.


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The Post Independent Updated May 28, 2011 01:06AM Published May 28, 2011 01:02AM Copyright 2011 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.