It was Wednesday morning and I was waking up for the second day at Doug’s hotel. After three long days of travel I was only 25 miles or so from Urique. Doug’s hotel is a breathtaking place with a gorgeous rock formation right behind it. The day before I had spent the morning and early afternoon exploring the area, running, rock climbing and just nosing around. Later that afternoon I had a chance to share a heart warming experience at a boarding school in the area (I’ll write about this later). As much fun as that was, I was ready to move on now. I just wanted to get to Urique and set up camp.
What had brought me to Urique and the Copper Canyons was Micah True, also known as Caballo Blanco. I wanted to get a chance to meet the man that inspired me to run far and free. I had watched the race unfold the year before. I read all of the reports and saw all of the pictures. I was blown away by the beauty of the location and the sincerity of the message that Micah carried with him.
This year though, would be different. I wasn’t there to meet and run with Micah anymore. Tragically, Micah had passed before I would ever get a chance to meet him. Instead was here to honor his memory.
There were two groups headed to Urique that morning. A group of hikers were taking off early and were going to hike trail down into town. A second group was going to take the roads throughout the day. I wasn’t interested in either. I wanted run there, 25 miles on a dirt road. It would be up and over a 3,000 foot ridge, about 10 miles of rolling hills and then a 6,000 foot descent into the canyon.
It was important for me to feel like I deserved to be here, in this moment. Running this route would give me the chance to prove this to myself. My solo run would also give me an opportunity to connect with my new environment. I would be seeing this countryside for the first time as I imagined Micah did, a lone wanderer just out there exploring.
I tossed my bags into one of the vans. Armed with my hydration pack, an extra waterbottle, and couple of GUs, I headed out as early as I could. I wanted to run as many miles as I could in the brisk morning air.
A few hours later and I was well past the halfway point. I had made it up and over the canyon ridge and was now running a section of rolling hills through a very scenic pine forest. Small shacks and rural farms dotted the landscape. Burros, cows, chickens were roaming free. I chatted with them as I ran past and practice my terrible Spanish “Hola, como estas?”
By now it was starting to get a bit hot. I had emptied my water bottle and was now working on my hydration pack. Fortunately, that’s when a friend drove by and stopped to see if I needed any help. He introduced me to a local runner that he was driving down to Urique. Mike refilled my bottle, wished me well and drove on.
A few miles further down the road I came across a sweet old man sitting on the side of the road. I can imagine that he was a bit surprised to see a 6 foot gringo out in the middle of nowhere running. I sat with him for a while and tried to communicate. He did keep mentioning Doug. I tried to explain to him that Doug was on his way. I’m certain that he didn’t understand much as my Spanish is quite terrible.
After a short little bit I stood up and ran on. I tried to explain that I couldn’t stay. The old man was motioning to me to sit. I think he wanted me to wait with him for the van. “No, no… I have to get moving. Vamanos!” The old man looked confused as I shuffled off down the road.
By now there was only about three miles or so left to Urique. I had started the descent into the canyon a few miles back. From as far as 6 miles out you can see the small town of Urique as you descend upon it. I’ve seen so many pictures of this place and I am just blown away by the fact that I am here. And after over 20 miles of tough running, it was invigorating to have my goal in my sights.
With only about two miles to go I stumbled upon the most powerful scene and the most memorable moment of my entire trip. Urique was right there, less than a couple of short miles away. Looking down the canyon, it almost seemed as though you could reach out and touch the buildings. I came around one of the switchbacks and right in front of me, prancing around the shoulder of the road was a majestic white horse. I had made this run as a way to connect with the area, the people, and the memory of Micah. This was simply an amazing sight. It was as if the memory of Micah, the Caballo Blanco was there to greet me. “Welcome to Urique, corre libre!”
I don’t even remember the last couple of miles into Urique. I floated down that canyon road to the entrance of the town. The vision of the white horse prancing on the side of the road, looking down on the town was such a powerful scene that I was in tears as I ran through the little archway. No one was there to greet me, no mariachi band, no finishers metal. But I had arrived. I had arrived both physically and emotionally, ready to run free.
The run took about 5 hours. It was about 10,000 ft of climbing and 13,000 ft of downhill. After all that, I found myself in a town that I didn’t know and didn’t even speak the language. I had no money, no ID… ..clearly I had not thought this part out too well. I wandered around the town looking for any gringo I could find. Fortunately I stumbled about James Moore and he showed me the way to Entre Amigos, where I finally got a chance to sit and have a beer with new family of Mas Locos runners.