Caroline Sekaquaptewa and Steve Ovah share their experiences.

our story caroline
State: Arizona
Tribe: Hopi

Hello! My name is Caroline Sekaquaptewa from the Hopi village of Sipaulovi and I am Patkiwungwa, Water clan. My parents are Rosa Honani and the late Phillip Sekaquaptewa. I am a 39 year old single mother to 4 beautiful daughters. I am an educator, and work with early childhood in a family literacy program. I have been an educator for 12 years.

In November 2012, I completed my first Ironman triathlon. It was an amazing and challenging experience. I was the first Hopi to finish this race and the year of training was very memorable. It was an event that challenged my mental and physical abilities. Completing the Ironman was a huge accomplishment. It was something I never thought I would complete, because of the distance of the entire race and the mental strength required to be out there all day. I was so excited to complete the race that the pain my body was in was forgotten as I ran across the finish line.

A couple days after I finished the Ironman race, and I thought, “Okay, that was what is next?” I knew the Boston Marathon had some tough qualifying standards, and so, I set a goal to try to qualify to run in Boston 2014.

I ran in the LA Marathon on March 17, 2013 to qualify for the Boston Marathon. The Boston Marathon sets qualifying standards in order for entrants to qualify for the race. For my age, the qualifying time was 3 hours and 40 minutes. I ran the LA Marathon in 3 hours and 33 minutes. The Boston Marathon will be held on April 21, 2014. I am very excited to be traveling to Boston in April to run my first Boston Marathon!

Training for Boston has been fun. I have run with my friends and I have run alone. I have a running coach, and I have asked some great Native American elite runners for advice. I have learned much information about running, nutrition, strength, and about myself. I have become a stronger person in many ways. The support of family, friends, and especially community has been huge. Being able to run the Boston marathon with another Hopi runner (also his first), makes this very special. We are both very excited and very grateful for all the support we are receiving from everyone!

I am a person who believes in setting goals and putting in the work to achieve the goals. I am grateful for life, and for what I have been given in life. There will always be challenges in life and I will not complain about the challenges. I will see them as opportunities to grow and make me a stronger and a better person. I will never stop growing, and I will never stop learning. I will run hard in the Boston Marathon and I will run with a happy heart.

our story BillieJo
State: South Dakota
Tribe: Oglala Lakota Sioux

Hello my name is Billie Jo swimmer. I am a single mother of 4 beautiful children, I am blessed in many ways. I am Oglala Lakota Sioux from the pine ridge Indian reservation. My Lakota name is wakan tiwin (lives holy).

My story... I can think of so many reasons why I run.. a lot of it is personal. I'm writing this right before I go for my run. For many years I been depressed I was diagnosed with PTSD. I been through therapy for events that took place during my childhood. I needed a positive way to let out my frustration.  I started running. But it also a positive step for my mind. While exercising your brain let's out good chemicals, which is great for your mood. I'm not a marathon runner yet, I plan to do many soon. I run because I find my peace of mind I find myself in my run. I have done many 5K's and charity runs. I've done one ragnar relay run. I have also got my kids to run with me. Healthy family is my goal. I have turned my running into my therapy sessions. Its my time to pound out what is bothering me. I don't compete for time or in races. I just try to beat the person I was yesterday. I always push myself to go further and faster, just like in life we need to push ourselves. Who else is going to cross the finish line for us if we don't do it ourselves?

I know there are many great runners out there in our native culture.  Lets help each other become better.

our story steven
State: Arizona
Tribe: Navajo

My name is Nakai Lake, a Navajo ultrarunner from Prescott, Arizona. I am from the Towering House clan, born for the Red House clan. My maternal grandpa is from the Red Running into the Water clan and my paternal grandpa is from the Bitter Water clan. Growing up, I would hear stories of how Navajos would run away from boarding schools. One in particular, was of a boy who fled from Leupp because he disliked the strict rules and he couldn’t express his heritage. From a Navajo tradition of waking up early and greeting the sun, the boy left in the night. Traveling by foot, he would avoid the Navajo police and school officials until he reached home. He would roughly run 100 miles over the course of three nights. These stories are what inspired me to run, to connect with my culture and who I am.

In sixth grade I began my journey as a runner when I joined track and cross country. I was not the fastest runner at all. I was that one guy that would finish last for their team but that didn't stop me from running. I didn't care how slow I was, I just did it because it was fun. Later that year I signed up for my first 10k, I later found out that some of my teammates were also signed up as well. I didn't know it yet but this race is what lead me to believe that I was born to run far, because for the first time I beat my whole team. As the years past I ran more 10K’s, and was actually getting faster. When I got to high school, I started to become competitive in racing and I didn't run anymore for the fun of it.

During that season, I experienced my first injury and couldn't run fast at all. One thing that I could do was run slowly, so I signed up for my first half marathon. I was the only runner from my team to attempt the Whiskey Row Half Marathon and I felt special for that. I felt even more special when I finished with a time of 1 hour and 46 minutes. After that race I was running for the fun of it again, and having an interest in trail running. I didn’t stop thinking of how amazing running is until cross country season came along and I start thinking in a competitive mind set.

In the beginning of the season I noticed that my shins were hurting. I didn’t think much of it as an issue because all I thought was how can I beat my PR. Later on though I had to stop running for a month because I found out that I have been running on a fractured bone. That month was horrible, I would see people running everywhere and I would be upset that I wasn't running. During that month, I found out when I run happy I don't get injuries, so when I got back into running at the end of my cross country season I focused on running happy again. It worked out too because I finished my season being the fifth runner on the varsity team and running the final race at the state meet.

After the season was over I began reading a book called “Born To Run” by Christopher McDougall. I learned about the Tarahumara, a tribe of runners that developed the superhuman ability to run for hundreds of miles at a time. Reading about these athletes’ ability to push their bodies beyond their limits inspired me to test myself, and I then signed up for a 30k and a 24 hour race that is part of the Around the Years event in Phoenix, AZ. The 30k I was flying by with a time of 2 hours 22 minutes and 7 seconds, also finishing 10th overall, but my 24 hour race was not what I expected. I was aiming for 100 miles, which I thought was reasonable, but I quickly realised that ultrarunning is a different race. I quit around 7 hours and did 34 miles but I wasn't upset because that was my farthest race, both distance and overall time. After that I started to research ultrarunning and I found out that it is more than just running. You also have to train your mind and physical body especially the stomach.

By now it is the beginning of a new year, 2014, and one thing that went into my mind was this is the year I will start my ultrarunning career. I started off by doing my hardest race yet the Black Canyon 100k. 62 miles of pure enjoyment I thought in the beginning until I got to mile 20. Right there I was extremely dehydrated and I threw up like 5 times and I only had 3 miles until the next aid station, which was also the first cut off time marker too. Some how I got up and ran to the aid station and by the time I got there the volunteers were telling me that I made the cut off time by a minute. In my mind I was thinking to myself “What? I made it!” and right there I told myself I can't give up now, so I ran for the rest of the time with pleasure that I didn't give up. I finished 3 minutes before the final cutoff time at the finish line and earned my first ever ultra-marathon buckle at the age of 15. This is one day before I turned 16.

After that experiences, every run I do now feel like nothing compared to that 100k. Three weeks later I was doing my first ever marathon, a week after that I did the Monument Valley 50k. I'm doing races that I never thought I could do. I'm currently preparing for Zion 50k followed by the Whiskey Row Marathon a month later and then another month later, I will be doing the San Diego Marathon. In July, I will be doing the San Francisco Marathon for pure enjoyment and to run across the San Francisco Bridge.  Around October, I’m planning to do the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim challenge, and at the end of the year, I’m planning to do the Around the Years race again but this time enter the 48 hour run in Phoenix, AZ. I've learned throughout my running career that life can get hard and people will tell you “you can't do it”, but you have to get up and just do it. That is the Nike motto that inspires me every time I run now.

our story steven
State: Arizona
Tribe: Hopi

My name is Steven Lawerence Ovah; I am 29 years old, and a full blooded Hopi. I come from Polacca AZ, from the village of Sichomovi at First Mesa. I am a distance runner; I started running from the age of 5. My grandfather Lawerence Ovah got me started running as a youngster as I would run on the dirt roads out at our ranch by Low Mountain, AZ.  My Father Marty Ovah, who also ran, was the one who took me to all the local races and got me to start competing and running daily. Since that time I have considered myself a runner. As a kid, I ran because it made me happy and it was something you had to work toward. I competed all through my school years, running elementary cross-country at Chinle, AZ and running Jr High and High School cross-country and track with Hopi High School, here at Keams Canyon. I was never really a standout runner during those years but still found joy in running and traveling with the team.  After high-school I ran cross-country and track for Haskell Indian Nations University at Lawerence, Kansas.

After my school years of running, I thought I was done with running and training for races. I took a break from running for almost five years as I worked and became a father to two of the greatest kids around. After a few more years of family life, bad habits surfaced and I found myself getting deeper and deeper into drinking. I felt unhealthy in mind, body and spirit. I noticed myself always having a bad attitude about things and it affecting the ones I love in a negative way. I didn’t like the direction my life was headed. I knew the person I’d turned into wasn’t the person I was as a kid or a person I could respect. It came to a point where I could either keep going down that path and just lie down and accept it, or rally and fight for my life. I made a choice that I wasn’t going to go out like that, so as a result, I started going to church with my kids, took classes and became a confirmed member of the Lutheran Church of Whiteriver AZ.  That gave me my start and through Jesus Christ I started to value sobriety and the simple things in life. It was then that I started running again. I started running again not to gain notoriety or to be faster than everybody, but to be strong within myself as I was as a kid. I started running again because it makes me focused, happy, positive and a better father, son, brother and friend.

I started running again and found joy again, I was running happy. When I run happy, naturally my running falls into place and I get stronger and quicker. If I beat myself up over not running as fast as I want to or try to compare myself to others then running gets frustrating. But if I just push through the hard times while running and know that they will pass, they eventually do and I gain mental strength in that way. By pushing myself I find out that I am always capable of more than I think. I am currently running 70 to 95 miles a week. My goal is to be over a hundred miles a week leading up to the race. I do speed-work, tempo and long runs to better help my body adapt to faster paces over longer distances. Most of my runs are easy runs; it is the hard workouts which get me stronger and quicker.  I try to run seven days a week; but if I miss a day of training I try and not let it get to me. Some days running are good and some are bad, I don’t force the bad days as I know the next will be better.  Eating healthy and getting enough sleep are the areas I struggle in the most. It is through this manner of running that I got through my first marathon. I did ok but felt I could do better. So I trained for the Shiprock Marathon 2013 in Shiprock AZ. Half way through training I sustained a knee injury. I ran the race underprepared and ran it in 3 hours and 1 minute. I missed my goal by one minute. I placed third overall knowing that I still had not run a marathon like I know I’m capable of. It was then that Monekopi Developers Corporation came and offered to try and get me into the Boston Marathon in 2014 which is the opportunity of a lifetime. My time was good enough to qualify and I ended up getting into the Boston Marathon this year. There are over 128,000 people around the world that try to qualify and get into the Boston Marathon. They only let in 36,000 based on fastest qualifying times. MDC has been instrumental in bringing my running back and brining positive energy into the communities through running.

My main goal for running this year is just to run hard and be the best person I can be for my family and community. I’m not a perfect person and I don’t strive to be, I have struggles just like everybody else does. I just want to make the best choices and help whoever I can through my running. When I run in Boston, I want to run for those who cannot due to illness or injury. I want to run for those who are suffering with addiction, or those just looking for a way to change their lives. And to celebrate the strength of our Hopi people. It’s almost like a form of prayer for me. I went to church, and through Jesus Christ, and through running I am working towards the person I am capable of being.

our story raelyn
State: Arizona
Tribe: Hopi

Where do I begin? It all started with standing in my closet one day looking for something to wear. I wasn't able to comfortably fit into a 2XL anymore and I saw down and began to cry. I was overcome with emotions because reality hit me. I looked around and told myself that I need to change – no more excuses. I didn't have proper gym ware, but I managed to lace up the next day and haven't looked back since. September 9, 2013 was the day I entered the gym after researching a couch to 5k program. In the social network, Facebook, I would see my friends, Caroline and Kelly, post their daily runs and quotes. The quotes helped me start and couldn't be here without their support. I can remember that I couldn't even stay on the treadmill for 10 minutes because I would get so tired and uninterested, but I pushed myself. Shortly after starting my routine, I joined a group on Facebook called Healthy Active Natives and I couldn't believe the support and motivation from Native Americans across the country, better yet, around the world.

I gradually switched to working out six days a week. I completed my first 5k on November 2, 2013 in Gila River and I was near tears when I finished. My friend, Kelly, was waiting for me and I could not believe what I had just done. Since that day, I knew it was possible that I could complete a 5k course, so I focused areas of improvement. I researched articles/videos on running, eating healthy, and various workouts to prepare my body and mind. At the beginning, I did not like to run or even walk a mile, but now I run because I absolutely love the feeling when I am done and I love the feeling being free, enjoying mother nature, the silence, staying healthy, etc.

I am glad to say that my dad has been more active since I started my fitness journey, we challenge each other every month with 100 miles and he is doing a great job. Never in my wildest dreams would I think that my friends would be asking me to join their relay teams or where the next race is. Sometimes, I wished I could've started earlier, but I know everything happens for a reason. I discovered a new passion that has provided me with a positive outlook. On average, I try to run 15-20 miles a week. Running with my friends has made it more meaningful because we have something in common. I completed my first 10k this past weekend on March 1st at the Phoenix Marathon. To this day, I lost 60 lbs, all through eating healthier, working out, and learning about various ways to keeping active. My long term goal is to complete a half marathon by next year. The impossible is possible if you put your mind to it. Believe in yourself.