Native Women Running Team Race This Week in Antelope Canyon
We are honored to be supporting the Native Women Running Team at this years Antelope Canyon Ultra Races in Page, Arizona.
We have the easy part, it is a no brainer to be involved with these wonderful, strong and amazing women.
They have the hard part, but they are prepared and ready to go tomorrow! Join us in wishing them a safe and fun journey through the demanding Arizona desert.
Follow them on IG at native_women_running.
Hi Verna…would you mind telling us a little about yourself?
My name is Verna Volker. I am Navajo, originally from New Mexico, but reside here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I am married with four kids. I am a teacher, but decided to take on NWR full-time because of ti's growth. I started running in 2009 to lose weight, but running became more about losing weight. It became something more internal. I went from a newbie runner to an ultrarunner in the span of thirteen years. 100k being my longest run yet.
We know how sacred running is to Indigenous culture, especially the Navajo People. What does it mean for you personally?
I didn't grow up running, but one of the teachings I remember hearing was about running and thought nothing of it until I became a runner. It is believed that we, as Navajo people, rise early to greet the sunrise and run towards the east to greet our Creator and the Holy People. During this time, we say our prayers and ask for blessings. Personally, for me, running has become a form of healing. I have had a lot of losses and trauma in my life, so I have used running to honor those who I have lost. This year, I will be dedicating all my races to my mother who passed on November 23, 2021.
Tell us about the Native Women Running Team. How did it come to form?
In the past year, I thought about creating a team but didn't go forward with it until the end of 2021. There was a group of Navajo women who were running the Antelope Canyon Ultra and asked if NWR could sponsor them and create a team around this event. They agreed, and so the team was created. Then the idea of creating teams also came to me when I ran my first 100k. There was a group of IG followers who crewed me at Javelina and what I witnessed there was community. I had never met these runners in-person, but they came together as a community - a group mostly made up of Native runners came together to support me and the work of NWR. It was a powerful experience.
Tell us about your most memorable race.
My most memorable race was my 100k Ultra in late October 2021. I am not a runner by nature, so running is very difficult for me. I started running in the midst of motherhood with three little boys, in my late 30's and 50 pounds heavy, so taking on a distance like this seemed difficult to me. This race was dedicated to all my loved ones that passed in my life. I wanted to run in honor of those who made an impact in my life. During that time, I also ran for my mother who at the time was having health problems.
You are truly an inspiring leader… where does that come from?
In the Spring of 1974, an assault and murder of three Navajo by three white teens led to a march in the town near my home in New Mexico. My late father and older sibling marched in a non-violent protest for justice for the three Navajo men because the perpetrators were only sent to reform schools. I was only three years old when my father passed away, so my siblings would share many stories of my father who often would stand up for others in our community. I truly believe that drive is instilled in me, so I do my best to stand up for Native women.
What are your goals, mission or aspirations for the team?
My goal for the team is to put representation into action and to draw community. This year, we hope to build running teams around these events in the United States Canada, so our native women can be seen in these spaces.