"Kwakwhay" or "askwali", the gendered thanks were showered upon me although I did not understand their significance until after the race. For the Hopi, to run is to pray, to pray for rain to be specific. For traditional Hopi running is literally part of their religion. Taken into consideration with their high elevation and communities connected by ancient trails it is no wonder they are a force to be reckoned with. Nahongvita was also shouted in encouragement which means "stay strong", "you are strong"or "dig deep". This encouragement was especially appreciated as I struggled up a 500ft stony trail and stair case carved into the mesa's side. I had to power hike the final section and very nearly threw up at the top of the climb.
The Louis Tewanimna Footrace is an annual 5K and 10K around Second Mesa commemorating Louis Tewanima who represented the USA in the 1908 and 1912 Olympics. In 1912 he won the silver medal in the 10,000 meters and was quated as having said "Me run fast good. All Hopi run fast good." It is hard to argue with that statement. I was utterly and completely unequal to the top runners who showed up. I finished 6th place, some four minutes behind the winner, in a race with fewer than 150 people. In October I finished 2nd in a Half Marathon with more than 2,000 people. The centrality of running to the community on the Rez is probably unequaled across the rest of The United States. This is a special event, commemorating an impressive man in place connected to the past as are few others. Considering their are only about 7,000 Hopi in the world, I'm not sure why the running community doesn't revere their sport culture with the same reverence which they bestow upon Itén, Kenya.