The latest edition of the Caballo Blanco Ultra Marathon drew 700 participants from 10 countries and eight Mexican states to run amidst the breathtaking scenery of the Urique Canyon in the Rarámuri Sierra on Sunday.
Founded in 2003, the marathon celebrates the long-distance running ability and endurance of the Rarámuri, or Tarahumara, people of northern Mexico.
On Sunday morning the runners began their 80-kilometer race from downtown Urique, following a precipitous path through the nearby canyons. The lowest point of the route is just 545 meters above sea level, while the highest soars to 1,800 meters.
The competition is named after its founder and benefactor Micah True, an American long-distance runner nicknamed Caballo Blanco, or White Horse.
In 1993 True met some of the Rarámuri runners of Chihuahua and began spending his winters running in the Copper Canyon area of the state, where he built a cabin and began establishing a relationship with the people of the sierra.
In 2003 he decided to organize a race whose purpose would be to help the Rarámuri preserve their culture and running heritage.
The first Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon was held on March 23, 2003, becoming an annual tradition.
In 2006 True invited ultrarunners from the United States to compete with the Tarahumara, garnering international attention. Three years later, True was featured in Christopher McDougall’s bestselling book Born to Run.
By March 2012, the event had become the region’s largest, attracting hundreds of participants. In addition to prize money for the top 10 finishers, the event awarded corn seed vouchers to all runners who completed the course.
Later that month, True died in the New Mexico wilderness after going for a run, following which the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon was renamed to remember and honor its founder.
Sunday’s main event was preceded by a race for children and teenagers aged six to 16 that served as an opening ceremony for the annual event.
Titled the race of Los Caballitos, or little horses, just over 1,000 participants from nearby towns entered the 16 competitions and categories designed for them.