SUGAR SKULLS, ALTARS, CEMETERIES, MESOAMERICAN CULTURE AND RUNNING!
(Updated) The central and southern Mexico festival, “El Dia de los Muertos”, or “The Day of the Dead”, celebrated November 1 and 2 of each year is approaching. The festival coincides with the Roman Catholic feasts of All Saints Day (11/1) and All Souls Day (11/2) which follow Halloween on October 31 (All Hallows Eve). According to the website MexicanSugarSkull.com the holiday is a combination of ancient beliefs about honoring the dead and the Catholic feast days, celebrated by the indigenous people living in that part of Mexico.
As a young girl I remember celebrating the ‘All Saints” and “All Souls’ Days of November in church praying with my mother. As an adult I try to continue the practice because it’s a reminder of the Polish-Catholic culture of my childhood, a throwback memory of my mother’s family traditions that brings me comfort.
Given the current appetite in the USA for the undead of all types and origins, this festival seems an ideal occasion to enjoy another good scare. Like the delicious fright generated by virus-induced zombies of “World War Z” movie, post-apocalyptic, pathogen-born “Walking Dead” of Netflix fame, and the White Walker-created wights in the “Game of Thrones” HBO series based on George RR Martin’s literary invention.
Alternately, it seems likely that others would come to embrace a festival celebrating the beloved deceased who are dearly missed.
These tradition-rich Latino holy days have the inherent mysticism, beauty, and heart to bring people of all cultures together in many ways. Some will prefer to center their activities at altars and in cemeteries in the time-honored ways. Other will march in parades, enjoy delicious food, dress in costume, or express themselves artistically. And runners and walkers will create races!
In October 2015 I scoured the internet for Dias de los Muertos-related races; there were a few. In 2016, there seemed to be an attempt to raise awareness outside of the ethnic communities of celebrations that included foot races. In 2017 and 2018, the number of events increased. This year, Active.com is managing a number of events in several cities (Chicago, Coachella CA, Los Angeles). Other cities offering events include:
This celebration, which represent holy days for some, is becoming a holiday celebration for many more, which promises to generate additional run/walk events. Images on race organization websites show there are opportunities to run in costume and face-paint; runners are famous for wanting to express their creativity and sense of style in this manner. In some instances, prizes are promised for those judged “best”.
My prediction in 2016 that there would be an increasing number of DDLM-themed competitions in the coming years seems to be trending true although at a slower pace than I had imagined. Cities in Texas, the southwestern USA, and in the north with large Latino populations have lead the movement, by establishing annual events years ago.
Some endurance races may eventually be planned that extend over several days to encompass the entire October 31 - through- November 2 time period (or more convenient weekend dates preceding or following the exact days, like the 4 day series in Las Cruces NM that starts October 31 and ends November 2, 2018 ). https://www.deadrunning.net/day-of-the-dead-series/
The DDLM event in South Beach OR November 2-3 has been changed from a 5k fun run to a serious endurance event (ultra) that can extend to a period of 2, 4, 6, 12, or 24 hours.
Prior to starting, participants can visit an ofrenda (altar) at the start/finish line to “honor their ancestors and loved ones passed on” and leave “flowers, fruits, trinkets, and written messages”, providing a “unique layer of depth, gratitude, and purpose to their endurance run from start to finish.”
The Oregon race’s website indicates that the “run's finish will be celebrated with an interactive performance of traditional Aztec dance by Huecha Omeyocan, a local group who shares the rich cultural practices of pre-hispanic Mesoamerican peoples through dance and music.”
With the rise in popularity of grueling obstacle course and “sufferfest”-like events, organizers may begin to incorporate punishing elements in DDLM competitions. Early November weather may be cooler, wetter, and inclement but not yet wintery in the northern hemisphere, and thus perfect for completing a toughing workout.
Hopefully more short, happy, family run/walk races will be held in the future to celebrate a beautiful cultural feast, giving more of us a chance to gain understanding and appreciation of another ethnic tradition.
If you can locate a convenient festival nearby, use your EARNED RUNS BIBS to create a personal event, solo or with others near and far, that could become a tradition.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
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Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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