Wednesday, June 17, 2009

First relay

I've been part of a relay team before.

I just found out about the Ragnar Relay on Saturday, a 12-member, 180-mile relay race that is held in various locations throughout the country. We're trying to get a team together for the Oct. 9-10 race within Nevada, that ends in Las Vegas.

But that won't be the first time I've run a relay race. It wasn't, actually, a race but we did run.

When I was 17, I went to Mexico for about six weeks during my junior and senior years of high school. I lived in my parents hometown, about 50 miles from Guadalajara. I happened to be there during Mexican Independence Day, which is Sept. 16. Every year, a lot of small towns near the city of Guanajuato gather in that city to pay homage to the start of the revolution.

In Guanajuato, a priest named Miguel Hidalgo touched off the revolution in a speech given to fellow revolutionary fighters way back in 1810. That's known as El Grito, or the shout, and it's revered today. So small towns will send a contingent of people to Guanajuato and each town takes one torch. Each torch is lit using fire from the same torch in Guanajuato, and all those torches make their way back to the small towns via the representative group.

And they do so by running. The year I went, there were maybe 60 people on the trip, give or take. It's about a six-hour drive from the twon to the city of Guanajuato so it's quite a bit of running. I actually only ran twice on my own, and once with the rest of the team running out of town. The first time I ran was at around midnight and it was raining. I was worried the torch would lose its flame but it didn't. The second time I ran was in the middle of the day, and I ran right past a tiny collection of houses that I suppose passed as a town. A lot of people stood on the side of the road, cheering, and one girl held out a flower. I grabbed it and held on to it and took it back to the town with me but it ended up dying. Still, the gesture was great and I was touched, even as a 17-year-old American.

I guess there was one other time I ran, as we all organized ourselves outside of town and ran in together. We were welcomed back like returning heroes from a far-off battle. It was pretty intense.

That was quite an experience. As I said, I was 17 years old but it left its mark on me. I just got a deeper feel for my parents' lives and my own heritage and it really opened my eyes to a lot of things.

The one thing it didn't do, though, was ignite a love of running in me. That would have to wait until 2008. Oh well.

But in going through the Ragnar Relay in my mind and picturing what it would be like, I've drifted back some to 1992 and my first relay experience. Yeah, it's different but if I still recall with great clarity the details of my runs back then, I'm certain the Ragnar Relay would create more treasured memories for myself and my fellow participants.


Willoughby said...

Great story, Luis! I had heard of Mexican Independence Day, but I didn't know about running from town to town with a torch.

I'm sure the Ragnar Relay will be memorable, too!

Angie Eats Peace said...

What an awesome story!