05 March 2015

Why I Didn't Run the Ultra Caballo Blanco

I'm going to write a longer blog post about the UCB and traveling to the Copper Canyon for one of the most unique experiences ever......but this post is dedicated to why I didn't run it.

In the days preceding the race, drug cartel violence erupted. I have read multiple news articles in Spanish and in English, and all of them say slightly different things. Basically, we don't know exactly what happened, but some people were murdered. Some were kidnapped. People heard gunfire.

The race directors chose to cancel the race. It was for a variety of reasons: security issues (obviously), course changes, and this was a race of love and community and peace, and would it not be run like this if it occurred. There might be other reasons too, that I don't know about, but these were the main reasons.

I flew to run the race because it was to be a pilgrimage. I love to travel, and the idea of this race has intrigued me since I read Born to Run many years ago. To run with the legendary Raramuri....wow. The trails were gorgeous, and I love running in pretty places. I also was excited about this race as a come-back race from my injury. Most importantly, it was to be a race to honor my Grandma Ann, who died at the age of 93 what would be exactly three weeks before the race.

But it was not to be. Some people chose to run anyway: "I came down here to run with the Raramuri, and I'm going to!" I did not. Here's why.

  1. Safety. This was not "I might turn my ankle on this course" - it was, "I might die." I spent four days in Mexico City prior to come, some of my time which I spent talking with all my friends there about the drug cartels. (I also wrote a report about Mexico for work, and am quite familiar with the drug cartels and the horrific violence they exact on their opponents and innocent people.) My friends educated me about the government's link with the cartels, about the violence, about what has been going on. It scares the crap out of me. My friend Wendy explained that innocent people had been getting kidnapped (for ransom), express kidnapped, arrested, worse. I could potentially be in the wrong place at the wrong time and get in between cartel cross-fire, or, blonde gringa, could be seen as a nice person for a ransom kidnapping or express kidnapping. I want to live. No race is worth the cost of dying.
  2. Lack of power in numbers. Most people were leaving the canyon. Why would I stay here when most people were leaving? The course would be more isolated, less people would be leaving when I'd be leaving....no. Leaving was the right decision. While there were Raramuri and Mexicans who stayed and ran, the number was definitely smaller than it was supposed to be.
  3. Respect. I respect the RDs Maria and Josue. I am an RD myself, and it's always frustrating when someone is blatantly disrespectful. It's Burning Man for my race, so I try to be chill, but I do call out people who are cutting the course, dropping without telling volunteers, acting like a jerk. I want to show Maria and Josue the same respect given to me - and if that means following their directions and rules, yes, that is what I will do. And that is what any participant should do.

We still don't know the full story of what happened. We probably never will. I like to take risks and travel to foreign countries and go all over with my backpack and some books, but running a race where I was warned of safety issues is not something I'm willing to risk.

Further Reading: