By Jocelyn Lockwood
As the wind whips sand across the desert on a dry spring evening in Little Water, three rambunctious boys lovingly tumble in the soft dunes. It seems nothing will tire them out.
It’s one of the few times in the past month the boys haven’t set out to run a mile up and down one of the hills surrounding their home. Cynthia Whitehorse, their mother, can attest to that. Whitehorse walked each evening as the boys charged ahead.
The brothers ran 25 miles in preparation to complete the final 1.2 miles of a full marathon last week in Shiprock, New Mexico. They weren’t alone. Between January and May, nineteen other students in the Bluff Elementary After School Program each ran and recorded a total of 25 miles before running the final marathon stretch together.
It’s the third year the program has afforded students the opportunity to participate. Each student gains invaluable experience at the event presented by Navajo YES, an organization that promotes a healthy and active lifestyle for youth on the reservation.
“Probably the stuff they give you,” Wallace Begaye, a 5th grader, said as he thinks back to his favorite part of race day. He’s referring to the jerky and blue mush more than the race medal hanging around his neck. His brother Trever Begaye, 4th grade, was able to introduce himself in front of the crowd, while the youngest, 1st grader Christian Begaye, seemed to focus his efforts on the task at hand – running.
All three Begaye brothers, who are Tódích’íí’ni, born for Kinyaaanii, Kinłichiini their maternal grandfather, Hashk’aan Hadzohi their paternal grandfather, each recall the race with a quiet sense of pride.
And so it came to pass, as the Bluff students made their way across the finish line to complete the 26.2-mile marathon, the brothers secured the top three spots of the Bluff student runners.
Wallace pushed to the finish line first, his youngest brother Christian on his heels, and middle brother Trever following just behind. With the older brother leading the way, one can’t help but imagine he was teaching his younger siblings some of life’s most important lessons – perseverance and determination. Although, if you ask Wallace, he surely wasn’t thinking about being a role model.
“That he was going to beat me,” Wallace said when asked what crossed his mind. Would he let him? The answer is an emphatic “NO”.
“They’re competitive,” laughed older sister Shynette Begaye.
Wallace has completed the race all three years the after school program has been able to attend placing third, then second, and now first of Bluff students.
“Wally was saying he wanted to take it one step higher and faster,” Shynette said.
Malyssa Egge, who runs the after school program, encourages students to understand that it doesn’t matter if you’re first or last as long as you show up – a lesson that appears to be sinking in.
“The coolest part is running,” Trever said, simply referring to the exercise.
However, on a beautiful evening just days after the race, the Begaye boys aren’t running, they’re wrestling. It’s hard not to capture the joy in their laughter as they share their marathon experience.
And, they aren’t alone. Nearly 20 other Bluff students have unique race day stories of their own and are equally deserving of praise for a job well done.