Runners and volunteers fpr the third annual Running as Medicine Prayer Run 360-mile journey that began in Bears Ears National Monument and will finish at Warm Springs Park in Salt Lake City, Utah, unspecified location and date | Photo provided by Reem Ikram, St. George News
ST. GEORGE – Honoring and healing Mother Earth is the focus of the third annual Running as Medicine Prayer Run, a 360-mile journey that began Tuesday.
Tribes chose ten runners to take part in what they consider a sacred journey. The race, hosted by the Native American nonprofit group Salt Lake City Air Protectors, began Tuesday at the Bears Ears National Monument and ends Saturday in Warm Springs Park in Salt Lake City. Both places are spiritually significant for Utah tribes.
“It’s important to honor Mother Earth through this run because she has been subjected to harsh treatment,” said Reem Ikram, communications director for Utah Diné Bikéyah. “She’s been mistreated and taken advantage of. This run is for her to heal. ”
Ikram, who is also one of the runners this year, said the runners are honored to start and end their journey on the sacred lands. Along the way, they are given free accommodations and food, all of which are paid for by funds raised ahead of the run.
Refocusing attention on Mother Earth, the theme this year is “Healing Our Mother – Healing Ourselves,” according to a press release issued by the Salt Lake City Air Protectors.
“We look forward to the discussion and visions it will bring as we look toward healing our relationships with Mother Earth, each other, and ourselves. As we begin this adventure, join us in healing together. There are many ways to support our prayer run. You can donate money or supplies, volunteer, or even run virtually wherever you are, ”the press release further states.
The name of the group, Salt Lake City Air Protectors, is meant to express their mission plainly, as clean air is what the Salt Lake community needs, they say, adding that Salt Lake City has some of the worst air quality in the United States.
The New York movie “3100: Run and Become” inspired the Utah Running as Medicine Prayer Run. The film features the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race held every summer in Queens, New York City. The race covers multiple days and is around one sidewalk block. According to the film’s website, the participants must run at least 59 miles a day for 52 straight days to finish the race.
Participants from across the globe strive to go past their limitations and find a deep sense of self. “The act of running to transform oneself is as old as time. Ancient man and woman ran not just for survival, but to connect with Nature and the Divine, ”the film’s website states.
Included in the news release is a quote from “3100: Run and Become” that states:
Running is a prayer. We use our feet to pray to Mother Earth. We breathe in Father Sky. Running is a celebration of life. And running is a teacher. Running helps us get through the hardships and helps us get through any troubles we might be facing. And ultimately, running makes us the person we want to be.
Salt Lake City Air Protectors group also was inspired by the elders at Standing Rock, according to their website. Their message is to return home to one’s community and protect the environment.
In addition to the 10 runners that will travel the 360 miles from southeastern Utah to northern Utah, there are part-time family and friend volunteer runners for support. They donate 1 or more miles where they can to the run over the span of five days, Ikram said.
According to their Facebook page, the Salt Lake City Air Protectors also recruit volunteers, raise awareness, perform community service, support existing initiatives and take direct action that will address the ongoing air pollution within the state of Utah. They plan to continue the Running as Medicine Prayer Run each May.
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