In late September, nearly 150 ultrarunners converged on Grants, New Mexico, on the eve of the first annual Mount Taylor 50K trail race. The course promised a scenic, challenging circumnavigation of the 11,300-foot peak, which is laced with jeep roads and singletrack, including a just-finished section of the Continental Divide Trail. Mount Taylor is a stratovolcano that blew its top some 1.5 to three million years ago, and on a typical, clear day, you can see its hulking profile from more than 80 miles away, the lone mountain wavering on the horizon, rising out of a high, hazy volcanic field.
For the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, and Acoma people, Mount Taylor (or Tsoodził, “turquoise mountain”) is a sacred peak, part of their ancient mythology and the southern boundary of their traditional homeland. So it was only fitting that proceeds from the inaugural 50K Trail Race would go to support young Native American athletes in the region through a non-profit called Nídeiltihí Native Elite Runners (NNER), and that one of the most talented Navajo distance runners of his generation would be racing.