async="src="/ Taking the Long Way Home: Book Review: Spirit Run: A 6,000 Mile Marathon Through North America's Stolen Land

Friday, January 24, 2020

Book Review: Spirit Run: A 6,000 Mile Marathon Through North America's Stolen Land

Disclaimer: I received a prerelease copy of Spirit Run from NetGalley and Catapult in exchange for my honest review. Spirit Run is scheduled to be released on March 3, 2020. This post contains affiliate links.

Noé Alvarez was a nineteen year old college student, a son of Mexican immigrants, who, after spending a summer working alongside his mother at an apple packing plant, wanted to do more with his life. He was saddened by his mother's and other workers' acceptance of their lives. Struggling to fit in at college, Alvarez gave up his scholarship and decided to join a Native Americans/First Nation Movement called Peace and Dignity Journeys. PDJs are marathons that are meant to create awareness amongst Indigenous people of the Americas. Spirit Run is Alvarez's story of his four month journey with PDJ.



From the book:
"Peace and Dignity Journeys occur every four years and start with Indigenous runners on opposite ends of the continents (Chickaloon, Alaska, and Tierra del Fuego, Argentina). They run for six months through hundreds of Indigenous communities where they participate in theiur respective spiritual practices and traditions; spark dialogue on the issue of peace and dignity for Indigenous peoples; model their responsibility to Mother Earth, Father Sky, communities, and themselves, and receive the community's prayers. These prayers and conversations are then carried to proceeding communities until the runners reach the center of the hemisphere. When the runners meet at the Kuna Nation in Panama City, Panama, it will symbolize all the Indigenous Peoples joining together in a spiritual way to manifest the prophecy of the Eagle and Condor. This was the year PDJ dedicated itself to the women. Four years before, it dedicated itself to the elders, and four years from now, it will be for the seeds. "  Noé Alvarez, Spirit Run
For Indigenous people, running the PDJ is a way of connection and prayer.  But as the group leader said, "it is not for everyone and the run will quickly teach you that."  Each runner on this PDJ took turns running part of the journey, carrying staffs, which are feathered sticks that are representations of communities that donated them. The leader of the run carries a Father Staff, which is the 'whole of the other staffs' and leads the run every day. It can only be carried by a runner capable of long miles, who can carry the spirit of the other runners forward.

Alvarez joined the PDJ runners in Alaska, one month into the run. A decent runner, he learns early on that he has to prove himself to the group. As he says: "nothing about me says Indigenous".  He was mocked for his brightly colored running shoes and his lack of camping knowledge. Throughout the journey, he struggles to find his place in the group. Several of the group are former gang members, hardened from violence. Some of the runners are bullied. In spite of this, Alvarez finds a few runners to connect with.

While on the run, the runners experience violence--on one run, Noé is hit by a rock thrown from a car--and racism. The runners talk about struggling to fit in while growing up. They run through communities where they are welcomed with open arms and experience tribal traditions.  There are conflicts between the runners about how traditions need to be respected. The PDJ was an interesting journey for the runners and the book really flows. Alvarez is a good storyteller.

The PDJ wasn't the journey I expected, but it was well worth the read. I will admit to some ignorance when I picked up this book. I didn't consider the whole of North America, including Canada and Mexico, as the home of indigenous people. Doh! Of course, it was. Spirit Run opened my mind to the ongoing struggles of the Indigenous people of the Americas. I also found it interesting when the runners were talking about discrimination amongst their own people, being told they weren't "Mexican enough" or "Native enough".
"Running renews our responsibility to community, he says (Pacquiao), our feet being like drums that 'if listened to long enough, can alter the human heartbeat.'" Noé Alvarez, Spirit Run.
I won't tell you how the journey for Noé ends because just like we runners say, it isn't always about the destination, it's the roads you take to get there. At the end of the journey:
"The main feathered staff has gained the weight of so many feathers that a flare of wind threatens to lift the runner holding the staff aloft into the heavens. It has absorbed a world of stories since its inception in Chickaloon Village, Alaaska, where it only had three: the eagle, the macaw, and condor feathers." Noé Alvarez, Spirit Run
The 2020 run is meant to fulfill the prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor, the native nations of the Americas.
There is a Peace and Dignity Journey for 2020. Runs are held all over the Americas to celebrate the ancestors of Indigenous people and to unify the communities. The 2020 run will run from the Carribean to Quito, Ecuador.

Spirit Run will take you on a marathon of a different kind. /via @oldrunningmom @netgalley @catapultstory #runningbookclub #runchat #running 

Have you heard of the Peace and Dignity Journey? Have you ever run for a community or connection?

I'm linking up with Fridays with Fairytales and Fitness.





14 comments :

  1. I have not heard of this! Wow it sounds so interesting I love all the culture and how it ties into running. I need to add this to my list. Thanks for sharing another great book idea

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    1. I loved this book--for so many reasons but because running was a link that brought all the tribal members together!

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  2. I have never heard of a PDJ or the book. It sounds wonderful. I will put it on my list. So sad that these indigenous runners suffered from prejudice along their journey. What is wrong with some people?

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    1. I ask myself that question every day. More troubling is the bullying that occurred on the run.

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  3. I have never heard of this but sounds interesting!

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  4. Fascinating! This would also be some good material for a documentary. Thanks for the review, I will look out for it when it is released in March.

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  5. I haven't heard of this book but the community is one of my favorite aspects of running!

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  6. I have never heard of this but I am very interested. I think I'm going to order this in my next Amazon haul. Thank you for the recommendation.

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  7. I had not heard of this and it sounds fascinating. I will add it to my wish list, if we can get it here.

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    1. It won't be released until March 3. Let me know if you want me to send you a copy!

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