Chasing the spirit of Caballo Blanco

Wait, why exactly are you doing this again?” asked the Nagging Voice, who sometimes joins me on my more adventurous runs.

I’d been running for more than seven hours under a merciless sun, amid a harsh landscape of gleaming rocks, dirt, and cacti.

I was thirsty, sunburned, and tired… and I had at least another four hours ahead of me.

Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch went the rocky gravel under my shoes.

I tried to drown out the Nagging Voice with silly running mantras: Slow down, it’s not a marathon, it’s an ultramarathon. It doesn’t matter if you’re feeling good or bad, it will soon go away.

The cliché that worked best? I don’t have to run, I get to run.

If I temporarily stepped into hell – my chapped lips, that annoying little pebble or that toenail that often falls off during ultras, or the damned blister throbbing on my right foot – I was soon yanked back to reality.

I was in the remote Copper Canyons in Mexico, running the race of my dreams: the 80km Ultra Maratón Caballo Blanco chronicled in the bestselling book Born to Run.

I was doing it (relatively) pain-free, alongside some of the most determined runners in the world, sharing the trail with children as young as 11 to great-grandparents well into their sixties and seventies.

Unlike me, the local runners weren’t wearing fancy trail shoes and hydration packs. Nor were they pacing themselves using running apps and heart rate monitors. Youngsters simply ran in blue jeans, women in bright and billowing dresses, and men in traditional skirts. Most of them were wearing sandals made from leather straps and old car tyres. It was unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed before.

But, wait. How did I get here?

Baby, we were born

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