LightShine’s GO Ultramarathon

The Tarahumara, indigenous to northern Mexico, are world-renowned ultra-long-distance runners.  For centuries, they have traversed the enormous Copper Canyon and the hundreds of surrounding mountains.  LightShine’s own annual “GO! Ultramarathon” is ran in the rugged heart of the Tarahumara homeland in the Sierra Madre Mountains not just to celebrate this incredible Tarahumara heritage, but also to advance God’s Kingdom in the Tarahumara Nation!

The GO! Ultramarathon is a relay race that spans approximately 41 miles, divided into six sections, beginning in the small town of Guachochi in the Sierra Madre Mountains.  In many places, the course is impossible to distinguish from untouched mountainous terrain.  Most of the runners are from the Joshua Program, LightShine’s leadership development program for teenagers.  The runners are divided into six groups, and must all complete their individual sections and work together to see the mission accomplished – the baton handed from team to team until it has traversed through the heart of the Tarahumara homeland to the finish line.  The Ultramarathon symbolizes the Gospel running through the Tarahumara Nation – too big of a task by any single group, but possible by working together.

In the darkness, the course begins in Guachochi’s central plaza.  The first group quickly leaves the town behind and passes the baton to the second group, carrying the baton to the rim of the Copper Canyon, passing by a Tarahumara village on the way.  With the sun risen, the third group now takes the baton for one of the most dangerous legs of the race.  Using an ancient path worn by the Tarahumaras, they will be scaling down boulders and logs to the base of the canyon.  After descending one mile in elevation, the path continues in the heart of the canyon towards the río Verde and río Guachochi.  At this point, most runners stop to cool their exhausted bodies in the river before beginning the ascent with 8km of punishing high-grade switchbacks in midday with no escape from the Mexico sun.  After exiting a path only a few feet wide on a cliff face, the baton is passed to the fourth group, who continue the steep ascent.  Finally, at the rim of the canyon, the baton is passed and the fifth group begins the return to Guachochi.  Finally, the baton is passed to the sixth and final group to complete the 41 mile course.

These young Tarahumaras believe God will do miracles in the Tarahumara Nation.  They believe enough to discipline themselves and train for months, and to run in the Sierra Madres in what most likely will be the brutal conditions of the rainy season in September.  They believe enough to run the GO! Ultramarathon to raise funds for Tarahumara Maranatha and the Tarahumara Training and Discipleship Center.

The Tarahumaras have always run these canyons, and they still run them faster than any outsiders.  Running is a part of life, like eating and sleeping.  Some have said that Tarahumara is running; even their name means “Light Feet”.  Centuries ago, they ran from outside encroachment into their lands and culture, for decades they’ve been running from drug cartels and cultural erosion.  Now they’re running with the Gospel.