Communicating the past into the future

Before the Spanish brought horses to this land over 400 years ago, a web of running messengers maintained communications across vast distances. Every village had at least one messenger with the ability and knowledge to cover long distances, dedicated to accurately communicating messages to the next messenger, or the recipient.

petroglyph runner

Petroglyph of a runner, found in Galisteo Basin, Santa Fe

Messages could be conveyed from point to point, as well as to entire areas. Messengers would also share the day’s news, and the stories of their people. They were the running internet, whose arrival always brought interest and excitement. The best stories were told around the fire – stories of back in the day, stories of how the people came to be, and entertaining stories and songs as well. It was the place to be long before TV.

Stories shared between messengers grow over time, and each conversation expands into new areas, providing a lifetime of learning with miles in between sessions to consider the last meeting, and prepare for the next one. Telling stories and learning new ones, such is the life of a running messenger.

Of course we are all messengers, whether we run or not. Each of us listens to stories told by our elders, family and friends, and we read stories that may be centuries old, from places we’ve never been, but that speak to us, because the human story is long, and tightly woven.

We remember the best stories and pass them on, perhaps to a friend while on a run or a walk. When we travel, we represent our own lands. Conversations about what our home is like, and how it is similar or different to where we visit. We share and learn news of the day, and history too, all of it knowledge to add to our own and expand our worldview.

After the horse came to the Southwest, the speed of communicating messages accelerated via the Pony Express, the telegraph, the telephone, fax machines, and now many of us depend on the Internet. We expect our messages to be received immediately no matter how far away the recipient may be. Regardless, we carry the stories within us and have the opportunity to pass them along to others and in so doing, continue the trail of footprints across the generations.

This petroglyph is located just south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, providing a witness over the centuries to the days when running messengers were the fastest means of communication. Let us celebrate our own roles as messengers and our ability to share the stories that are meaningful to us across great distances and into the future.

Smooth Running,

Joseph Karnes
Race Director