Legendary Advice

“Stay in shape” and do “plenty of footwork.” Those were the last two tips that Muhammad Ali gave to his grandson Nico. Tremendous advice, both. Recently, I took Bummer, my 14-year-old yellow Lab retired running companion, to the vet. He suffers from arthritis in his hind legs and has difficulty getting up. I asked whether walks are advisable or whether they’d do more harm than good.

bummer bandana

Bummer doing his cross-country thing

“If he wants to go, take him! His muscles are what is keeping him going. If he stops moving, then he will decline much faster.” Of course, it is true. Bummer and I have run thousands of miles together and his muscles are able to continue doing their job, even when ligaments and bones have worn down. His spirit is resolute as always, and he has developed quick feet – double timing it up front to keep time with his back end. He retains his grace and the amazing ability to pivot and invariably miss, by the slightest of margins, any wall, table or other impediment.

If you do something thousands upon thousands of times, it becomes second nature. Muscle memory, a conditioned set of lungs, and a good attitude enable us to achieve far more than we previously imagined possible. What was once a dream becomes routine and we know what we can do. I run 3 hours, slow, cross country-style in the wilderness every Saturday and Sunday, usually with several thousand feet of elevation gain and loss between 7,000’ and 12,500’ elevation.

'81 San Francisco Half

A 2:30:43 finish for Joseph Karnes, 16 years old, at the 1981 San Francisco Marathon

During the 20 or so years of my competitive career, I refrained from allowing myself to get out of shape. I was lucky to suffer relatively few injuries, but those recoveries embedded in me a refusal to allow myself to lose my fitness. I would laugh and say “its too hard to get in shape. If I had to do it again, I very well might not make it!”

Of course, the time finally came when I let myself go and stopped competing. That transition was a few years in coming and it took me a few more to come to grips with it. My fundamental identity evaporated in proportion to the expansion of my “stylish pot.” It has only been since moving to New Mexico a decade ago that I’ve regained my rhythm. Now, at 50, 6 hours of running in a weekend is typical and thanks to my Sunday runs with Abraham Kosgei, I am even getting my wheels back. But that is not my point. Now I pursue the spirit of adventure and play in the mountains like I did as a child.

Getting fit is hard. Staying fit is not nearly as difficult on the body, mind or spirit. The Champ said “Stay in shape”. Getting in shape is on you. Not even the Greatest can get you in shape – you have to do that yourself. But once you get in shape, apart from setbacks, the right attitude and a not-nearly-as-challenging degree of effort will keep you there.

Miles in the bank. With my standard solid base and some kind of recent speedwork, even if I wasn’t in top condition, I was confident I could at least “fake it” through any competitive race up to a half marathon. You don’t fake a marathon, running for time or to finish. Apart from that, thousands and thousands of miles in the bank will get you through. You know that you can make it. In those days, the question was how fast? Now, it is how much time do I have today? And how much wilderness am I prepared to bite off?

“Stay in shape” and do “plenty of footwork.” What better advice could a grandfather give to his grandson? And what a wonderful thing for that grandson to share it with the world. Muhammad’s daughter said that his heart kept beating for a half an hour after the rest of his body shut down. Ali is the G.O.A.T. because he followed his own advice.

Smooth Running,


‘The Tour de Pueblos’ & Our Pueblo and Tribal Member Discount

Starting line 2015

Santa Fe Thunder Half Marathon starting line 2015

Early on a sunny August day six years ago, Abraham and I played hooky and headed south on our ‘Tour de Pueblos’. The first stop was Cochiti Pueblo, where we found ourselves at the subdivision next to the Pueblo where nary a Pueblo member was to be found. We finally walked into a building and were directed down the road to the offices next to the Cochiti Golf Club (a fantastic course!), where we found some tasty breakfast burritos in addition to the exact people we were looking for. After our false start, we felt confident that we had a chance of achieving our goal of finding the right people and providing race information to 7 Pueblos.

We founded Global Running Culture with the mission of bettering the lives of youth through the powers of sport and education in three communities where running is a vital part of the culture: northern New Mexico, Abraham’s village of Matungen, Kenya, and Copper Canyon, Mexico. We realized that providing a half price discount to Pueblo and Tribal members would further our mission, given that parents set an example for their children. We also created a free children’s event, the Global Footprints Youth Run, to be held on the day of packet pickup – they day before the half marathon. We made a big stack of fliers, did some research on the locations of Wellness Centers, and set out for an adventure, with the final destination being Jemez Pueblo and its Feast Day.

We rolled down Highway 22 along the Rio Grande, hitting Santo Domingo, San Felipe, Santa Ana and Sandia Pueblos before lunch, having some great conversations along the way. We chowed down at Golden Corral and dropped off posters and fliers at some ABQ running stores before heading back north and then west on Highway 502.

We ran into a runner we knew at the Zia Pueblo medical center, and then crossed our finish line at the Plaza in Jemez Pueblo, where we enjoyed the rest of the afternoon watching the amazing dances and eating with the Gachupin family, who have been involved with Santa Fe Thunder from the start.

The ‘Tour de Pueblos’ and our subsequent outreach efforts resulted in participation by more than 100 Pueblo and Tribal members. We were thrilled to welcome so many Native runners, some of whom traveled from as far away as South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma and Washington.

In 2012, Pojoaque Pueblo Governor George Rivera created a statue of Olympic Champion Billy Mills (which Abraham modeled for). Billy, Pat, and their daughter Billie Jo attended Santa Fe Thunder and we were proud to present Billy with a 2-foot tall bronze in thanks for his four inspiring talks during race weekend. Our relationship with Running Strong for American Indian Youth has blossomed since then. Global Running Culture has distributed winter clothing, daypacks filled with school supplies, and running shoes, in several northern New Mexico Pueblos, the Hopi Reservation and in the Copper Canyon village of Cusárare.

Waylon Pee Pahona

Waylon Pee Pahona, Healthy Active Natives Founder

In 2013, Wendi Lewis invited us to speak at the We Run Strong conference in Moenkopi, Arizona. We were thrilled to participate and to take part in the evening Luminaria Run – one of the most unique and special runs anywhere. On the last day, we had the good fortune to head out into the pre-dawn darkness following Waylon Pahona, founder of the Facebook group, Healthy Active Natives. We connected on many levels and since then, we have joined forces and collaborate at every opportunity. As Abraham says “when you want to run fast, run alone. When you want to run far, run together.” HANS is up to over 60,000 group members and the number of Native and Tribal Santa Fe Thunder participants has increased each year, with over 300 in 2015.

Harambee” is an African concept meaning “we all come together.” It is a way of life, where community is central to the well being of all. “We are all in this together” is a fundamental shared understanding and strength. Global Running Culture celebrates the mix of cultures and Santa Fe Thunder offers the opportunity to be part of a gathering of runners from around the country and world. Running alongside Rarámuri (Tarahumara) ultradistance runners from Copper Canyon, Mexico; Pueblo and Tribal runners from many clans near and far, and world class runners from Kenya, Ethiopia, Morocco and other parts of the world, is a memorable experience and great opportunity to make new friends.

We invite Pueblo and Tribal members to sign-up for the 6th running of Santa Fe Thunder by sending an email to info@santafethunder.com with your name and the Pueblo or Tribe of which you are a member. We will email you a discount code for the race entry portal at active.com.

Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe it’s time to take another ‘Tour de Pueblos’ leading up to Jemez Feast Day this August!

Smooth Running,

Joseph Karnes
Race Director

Quest for a Tractor

Matungen school

Abraham’s school in the village of Matungen, Kenya

Abraham Kosgei, co-founder of Global Running Culture, grew up in the rural Kenyan village of Matungen, on the edge of the Great Rift Valley. In 1966, 10 years before he was born, his Mother Margaret saw a need for early childhood education and did something about it. She started a school for children ages 4-7 to prepare them for the elementary school located 6 miles away. Margaret taught 75 students in the school’s single classroom for the next 40 years, and since her retirement, her daughter Emily has continued her legacy. Abraham’s education and Margaret’s urging that he “run for me” propelled him to race around the world, be named to the Kenyan Olympic team, and 10 years ago settle in the Pueblo of Pojoaque, New Mexico just outside of Santa Fe where he teaches fitness classes to young people and elders at the Pojoaque Pueblo Wellness Center.

GRC’s mission is to provide children in Matungen, northern New Mexico and Arizona, and Copper Canyon, Mexico with the same opportunities that Abraham had through the powers of sport and education. The need in Matungen is clear: because Margaret had received a donation of land for the school, it was outside the official school system, and therefore never received financial support from the government. She taught in exchange for donations of food from student’s families, as Emily does today.


Students at the school testing out the solar lights Abraham and Joseph brought on their visit

Abraham realized the need to buy land and build a new school, which will facilitate the receipt of government funding for operations. GRC raised funds and bought 4 acres of land perched on the edge of the Rift, not far from the existing school. Former Steeplechase World Record holder and Olympic Silver medalist Peter Koech, who has constructed many buildings in Kenya, helped design the school, prepare a budget, source materials and prepare the construction plan. GRC is in communications with Elgeyo Marakwet County Governor Alex Tolgos, who has known Margaret since he was a young boy and who enthusiastically supports the project.

The next step is acquiring a +/- 25 year old Ford or Massey-Ferguson tractor, 85+ horsepower, that will be shipped to Kenya. Using our own tractor to build the school will enable us to avoid the expense, delays and loss of control inherent in renting a tractor and hiring an owner-selected operator. Once the school is constructed, the tractor will provide an ongoing source of income for the school through a rental program, including funding of the meal program that is critical to maintaining high attendance. Spare parts are readily available in Kenya for this vintage and brand of tractor. We have the arrangements in place to ship the tractor from Houston to Mombasa and from there via rail to Eldoret, in the vicinity of Matungen. We hope to ship the tractor by the end of October for arrival in February of 2017.

GRC seeks a donation of the tractor. Any such donation is tax deductible to the full extent of the law. If you have, or know someone who has, an old +/- 100 hp Ford or Massey-Ferguson tractor out in the “back 40” that has been replaced by a more modern tractor, we would love to hear about it! We will consider any offer and are prepared to offer appropriate recognition in the U.S. and Kenya if the donor desires, and of course our eternal thanks. Please email us at info@santafethunder.com if you or anyone you know would like to discuss donating.

GRC also seeks donation of funds to pay for shipping of the tractor, and construction of the school. We are hoping to construct the school in the Spring of 2017. Here is a link to our Crowdrise Fundraising site – Global Footprints Project Kenya.

The growing team of GRC volunteers is passionate about our mission of bettering the lives of youth through the powers of sport and education and are compelled to achieve our dreams, and fulfill our destinies. Thank you for reading this and for any support you are able to provide. More details about the Global Footprints – Project Kenya fundraising program will be forthcoming.

Asante Sana! (Thank you very much)

Abraham, Joseph, Carolyn, and all the Global Running Culture volunteers


Students on their marks for a race during Abraham and Joseph’s visit

Making Our Own Trail

Abraham at the start of our climb up the side canyon

Exploration is challenging and involves much focus and effort. Decisions of substance are frequent and the senses are alert on all levels. The longer the effort, the more consequential decisions become. Eventually, the crux is reached and the route bent to head back toward civilization, usually with the path ahead getting easier as time goes on (but not always!)

On Sunday morning, Abraham and I headed up Frijoles Canyon in Bandelier National Monument and eventually decided on a side canyon to explore cross-country style. Navigation was a challenge due to huge boulders and vertical scarps all around. What looked promising might cliff out at a moment’s notice at a turn hidden from below.

Abraham took one side and I stayed to the other. We discussed the level of commitment required for an exploration to succeed. I am in the middle of the definitive book on the conquest of Mexico, and I told the story of how when Cortés was ready to head inland toward Tenochitlan (after founding Vera Cruz), he ordered that all the ships but one be burned. That is commitment.

We climbed steadily and both heard it at the same time. Something large a good 50 feet above us, headed our way! It was a huge hawk who flew right over our heads, circling around once before zooming out of sight around the cliff to the east. We laughed and continued the climb, wary of stumbling into another hawk or maybe a nest.

Eventually we made it to our final level. The pour off was over 100 feet above us and it was the end of the line for us. We enjoyed the pinnacle of our fine adventure while being secure in the idea that the way back would be not only all downhill, but also known territory.

Abraham at the end of our trail

Returning to familiar terrain quickens the pace and accelerates the whole enterprise. Once a route is established, the next time it will be much easier and might take only half the time to get to the far point than the original exploration did.

The time coming back passed too quickly for us, though we enjoyed every moment, and knew that we still had a 35 minute drive back to Pojoaque to continue the conversation. The wilderness is our office, after all – where we catch up, strategize and plan our next steps. May each of you have an outlet like this and friends to share it with!

Smooth Running,

Joseph Karnes


Running for a Cause

On April 21, Peter Koech, Abraham and I are heading to Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, the mission of which is to celebrate life, reach for the future, honor the memories of the victims of the Murrah Federal Building bombing, and unite the world in hope. We are honored to be attending for our second year, part of the 25,000+ strong gathering from every state, and countries around the world.

Joseph, Bill Rodgers and Abraham

Joseph, Bill Rodgers and Abraham – Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon expo 2015

While searching for a new race expo last year, I stumbled on OKC and was excited to learn that it is just an 8 hour drive from Santa Fe, doable for participants from Oklahoma to join us in September.  Santa Fe is perfect for a long weekend and a peak experience followed by a few days of celebration and relaxation in the Land of Enchantment, including a soak in an outdoor hot tub and a massage at Ten Thousand Waves, a cozy bed a block off the Plaza at La Fonda or the El Dorado, and unforgettable northern New Mexican meals at one of Santa Fe’s many renowned restaurants.

The next thing I did was reserve our booth for the 2-day expo at the Cox Convention Center. Our banner featuring the Santa Fe Thunder course elevation profile turned out to be the attention grabber. Our many great conversations typically started along the lines of “I love Santa Fe! But it’s almost a mile and a half high. Oh, but look at that – the course is downhill!” We made lots of friends, over 100 of whom ran Santa Fe Thunder from Oklahoma alone.

Mark Bravo

Mark Bravo: Running Ambassador, author, friend

Among our new friends is one of the most positive and energetic people I’ve ever met, Mark Bravo, an Ambassador at the center of the running community. Abraham and I value the time we spent getting to know Mark and his guest, Bill Rodgers (one of my childhood heroes). I relished every moment talking with Bill, in particular his recollection of the famous battle with Henry Rono at the San Bias Half Marathon. Abraham and I were happy to pass along Bill’s best next time we saw Henry.

As much of a treat as it was meeting Bill, our friendship with Mark Bravo has grown and continues to. I brought home and read Mark’s book Momentum and pick it up on a daily basis, flipping to a passage that fits my need or mood. Bill said “Mark’s book is a great testament to the spirit: what tenacity, a positive outlook, and staying the course does for one’s life.  It’s a must-read for one who’s serious about being the best they can be.” Mark has inspired our whole family.

We will be in booth # (I will update as soon as I know!) and will also be spending time in Mark’s booth. Peter Koech will be autographing photos, and he and Abraham and I look forward to sharing our experiences running and living in New Mexico. Celebrating life – what a fine way to spend a special weekend, above and beyond our every-day celebration!

Smooth Running,

Joseph Karnes
Race Director

Grandfather of Kenyan Running in New Mexico (Part II)

By 1988, Peter Koech was a veteran professional distance runner with over a decade of international competition under his belt. He was versatile, excelling over distances from 1,500M to 10,000M. The 5,000M and Steeplechase offered the ideal combination of speed and endurance. While avoiding being classified as a Steeplechase specialist, Peter honed his hurdling technique and by 1988, he was prepared to shine on the world stage.

4 Runners

Runners all: Abraham, Peter, Henry Rono, Joseph

At the Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, Julius Kariuki and Patrick Sang joined Peter in the Steeplechase Final. Any one of them could win the day, and as with most races, they ran together at the front for most of the race. Patrick Sang fell off the pace, but Julius and Peter raced together all the way to the tape, with Julius finishing in an Olympic Record time of 8:05.51 to Peter’s 8:06.79. Julius and Peter accomplished what they set out to do – reaffirm Kenyans’ dominance in “their event.”

Having won a Silver Medal, Peter focused on running his perfect steeplechase. He applied all his experience and energy to the 1989 outdoor season. On July 4 in front of 14,700 track fans in Stockholm’s Olympic stadium, it all came together. Urged on by the rhythmic clapping of the crowd, Peter gave it his all, hurdling the final water barrier and sprinting to a World Record time of 8:05.35. Peter’s record stood for more than three years until the great Moses Kiptanui set the first of his two World Records, later breaking the 8 minute barrier.

During his time at Washington State, Peter and his friend and fellow Nandi tribesman Henry Rono ran a couple of indoor meets at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. With the mile-high elevation, arid climate, nearby 10,000’ high mountains with endless trails and indigenous locals, they felt at home. After leaving Washington, they decided to make Albuquerque their training ground. The two explored the Sandia Mountains, ran intervals on the UNM track and, over time, welcomed more Kenyans to the Duke City. The years passed and as their running careers wound down, they found good jobs at the ABQ Sunport, where they continue to work to this day.

As Kip Keino is the Grandfather of Kenyan running, Peter and Henry are the Grandfathers of Kenyan running in northern New Mexico. The Kenyan diaspora spreads through word of mouth and this land has become the home of over 400 Kenyans, a fraction of whom are professional runners. In 2014, Kenya’s Ambassador to the U.S. visited Albuquerque during the 50th anniversary of Kenya’s independence. She was astonished to find over 100 Kenyans in attendance.

As one example of how messages are passed on among runners, Peter told Simon Sawe about Albuquerque. After moving there, Simon told Abraham Kosgei (GRC’s own), who moved to Pojoaque and Abraham told Caroline Rotich (2015 Boston Marathon winner), who told Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton (2015 Santa Fe Thunder women’s winner and women’s course record holder) who made Santa Fe her home 3 years ago. Santa Fe has its own hugely popular Kenyan restaurant, Jambo Café, and the city threw a parade for Caroline Rotich after she won the Boston Marathon in 2015. Abraham has devoted his life to helping indigenous youth and elders live healthy active lifestyles as a trainer and coach at the Pojoaque Pueblo Wellness and Healing Arts Center, and by co-founding Global Running Culture and Santa Fe Thunder.

From the time he was young, Peter Koech witnessed the ascendancy of Kenyan distance runners and led his people to faster times than had ever been run, and lands previously unreachable. His story is still being told and his three sons, one of whom graduated from Harvard, and two who are blazing their own trails, carry on the dream. We are proud to call Peter our friend and to honor him at the 2016 Santa Fe Thunder Half Marathon. We hope you will say hello to Peter during Santa Fe Thunder’s race weekend: it is a gathering of the Global Running Culture and an opportunity to meet, and run with, new friends from around the world.

Smooth Running,

Joseph Karnes
Race Director

Peter Koech, Grandfather of Kenyan Running in New Mexico (Part I)

October 20, 1968, Estadio Olímpico Universitario, Mexico City. Before 83,700 spectators, Kipchoge Keino toes the line in the Olympic 1,500M Final, competing against one of the strongest fields ever assembled including 21 year-old World Record holder Jim Ryun of Wichita, Kansas. Half a world away in the Nandi village of Kipsamo, in the heart of the Great Rift Valley, Kip’s house overflows with hushed villagers surrounding the radio and straining to hear the call of the race.

As Keino sprints to the finish 20M ahead of Ryun, breaking the tape in an Olympic record time of 3:34.9, 10 year-old Peter Koech shouts with joy and Kipsamo erupts in celebration of Kenya’s first-ever Olympic Gold Medal in the 1,500M run (Naftali Temu won Kenya’s 1st Gold in the 10,000M a week before).

Peter, along with his fellow Nandi and Kalenjin peers, was inspired by Kip’s heroics. They learned from the pioneers of the opportunities to earn money far beyond what they could ever hope to earn at home. Enough money to buy land, cattle, and raise a family while representing Kenya in far off lands and bringing glory to their people. Peter and his friends turned their dreams into reality, dominating world distance running for the next half century. The steeplechase, in particular, is Kenya’s proprietary event. In the 43 years from 1973 to present, Kenyans have held the World Record in 37 of them (current WR holder Stephen Cherono, from Keiyo District, holds Qatari citizenship under the name Saif Saaeed Shaheen).

Peter 1

Running for  Washington State University, where he was inducted into the WSU Hall of Fame in 2009.

Ben Jipcho set a new record of 8:19 in 1973. Then during his incredible 4 WR in 81-day summer of 1978, Henry Rono lowered the record to 8:05. Henry’s record stood for 11 years, until Peter Koech ran the fastest steeplechase ever, with a time of 8:05.35 in Stockholm Sweden on July 3, 1989.

After running for the Kenyan Army, like Kip did, Peter was among the first Kenyans to receive a scholarship to an American university. Washington State Coach John Chaplin visited the Kenyan Track Championships in Mombasa, where he offered Peter the opportunity of a lifetime – 4 years of training, racing, and learning at a top university. Peter made the most of it, winning the NCAA Steeplechase title in 1985, earning a degree in Social Science, and later being inducted into the WSU Hall of Fame.

Peter 3

Peter running in the McVities Challenge Athletics race – Crystal Palace, London September 1987.

Peter’s favorite times during college were the summers. He and his friends would head for Europe and the big summer meets: Rome, Oslo, Stockholm, Monaco, London, Lausanne, Paris, Zurich, Brussels and Berlin. Huge crowds, prize money, adventures and epic stories week after week. As Peter recalled, track is much bigger in Europe and the fans are very knowledgeable. Just imagine the times they had, while pushing the limits of human speed and endurance in front of packed houses and competing against the world’s best!

Next – the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the story of why so many Kenyan runners live and train in northern New Mexico.

Smooth Running,

Joseph Karnes
Race Director

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

A Long Way from Chepkaram to Santa Fe

Aliphine 2015 SF Thunder with dancers

Aliphine with two Pueblo of Pojoaque Hoop Dancers

Aliphine Tuliamuk Bolton is the Santa Fe Thunder half marathon women’s course record holder, with a blazing time of 1:09:16 in 2013. She then won the race in 2015, and has made Santa Fe her home since 2013.

Over a lunch of Gyros and chai at the Famous Plaza Café in Santa Fe, Aliphine told me that Chepkaram, the village she grew up in 10 road hours northwest of Nairobi, is too small and too far to be findable online. It is true – Google Earth is unaware.  The nearest city is Kapenguria, the capital of West Pokot County, with 13,000 urban residents.

Aliphine discovered her running talent by accident, while looking for an excuse to travel to neighboring schools to cheer on her teammates, but her parents wouldn’t let her go because she was too young. One afternoon during track practice, she saw her older sister Lucy cross the finish line first, which meant she would represent her school; in that moment, Aliphine promised herself to run with Lucy the following day and sure enough, Aliphine was faster. In 1999 when she was in 3rd grade, Aliphine won her 1st ever cross country race in the village of Kaptabuk and the prize of a blanket, which she gave to her grandfather. This inspired her to race again, and soon Aliphine had the opportunity to do so, representing her village and school.

At the 2000 division championship in Cheparten, she was astounded by all the runners wearing shiny warmup suits. Despite such intimidation, Aliphine was there to run as fast as she could, and was surprised to win the 10,000M race. As always, she ran barefoot, and her family and supporters who brought her from home were amazed by her achievement. When she won the District meet in Chepareria, the whole village was behind her and were shocked – the first girl from Chepkaram to achieve such success, and she was only 10 years old!

Aliphine mountains

Aliphine in the Kenyan highlands

Aliphine didn’t go home as she ran up the ladder of success. But the next race, the Provincial Championship, was in Kericho, another several hours south of Eldoret. Her family had to return to Chepkaram and by this point, Aliphine felt more alone than she ever had, and wanted to go home too. She didn’t do well in Kericho (“only” 5th), but returned to a huge welcome from everyone in her village – the Pokot Rocket was born!

Thanks to continued success through middle school, in 2005 Aliphine was offered the opportunity to attend a distinguished high school, St. Cecilia Girls High School in Misikhu, Western Province. She also qualified for the World Junior Cross Country Championships in Saint-Galmier, France. The Kenyan girls team became World Junior Champions and 15 year old Aliphine finished 9th, and 6th on her team, running against athletes up to 20 years old!

Soon, Aliphine realized she could excel in school as well as running, and focused more on her studies than racing, finishing 9th in her class and earning the opportunity to receive a scholarship to a university in the United States. Barnabas Korir helped her attend Iowa State University, where Aliphine studied pre-nursing and learned all about winter in the Midwest. Aliphine

After transferring to Wichita State, Aliphine became a First Team All-American in cross country and in 2013, the first women from her village to graduate from college, with a major in Public Health that she plans to eventually apply at home. Her first professional race was the 2013 Crim 10 Miler in Michigan, which she won. Along the way, Aliphine heard about the Santa Fe resident and 2015 Boston Marathon Champion, Caroline Rotich, after she won the 2013 NYC half marathon and heard about the Land of Enchantment. Soon after she spoke with another Kenyan, Haron Lagat, who coincidentally has the same coach as Caroline. That was enough for Aliphine and her husband Jarron Bolton to become residents of the City Different, and join the local group of world-class Kenyan runners.

A few days after winning Crim Festival of Races 10 miler, as Aliphine was on her way up from Albuquerque on I-25 after a Saturday long-run, she spotted Abraham on the billboard that Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino provides us each year near the foot of La Bajada. A local half marathon, with prize money! Aliphine ran Santa Fe Thunder, her longest race ever, as a tempo run and was amazed to go through 10 miles faster than at Crim! She felt relaxed the whole way and cruised to a 1:09:16 – the fastest half marathon ever run by a woman in New Mexico.

When she is not training on the roads and trails of Santa Fe, or, like this morning, doing speedwork on the Pojoaque Pueblo Wellness Center track, Aliphine provides care for the elderly in their homes and has recently started volunteering as a coach for Girls on the Run at the Chaparral Elementary school in Santa Fe. Aliphine is living the dream of Kenyan runners in the United States, and in particular, northern New Mexico, while giving back to her community at the same time.

I asked Aliphine who first told her about Santa Fe. “I am here because of Caroline” she said. Abraham Kosgei told Caroline about Santa Fe, and the connections go all the way back to the Grandfathers of Kenyan running in New Mexico, Peter Koech and Henry Rono. 40 years of Kenyan runners in New Mexico, each on the journey of a lifetime. As said in a previous post, it’s all about the stories. Many thanks to Aliphine for sharing her story and best wishes for future success in running and her career in public health.

Smooth Running,

Joseph Karnes
Race Director

The Race Different, from the Start

The Start

Abraham signaling the start of another year’s Santa Fe Thunder Half Marathon

You may ask, what makes this the Race Different? Let’s begin at the start. Backed by African drummers, world class Kenyan runner and Kalenjin warrior Abraham Kosgei, clad in a ceremonial leopard and kudu cape and wearing a 3-foot tall hat made from the pelt of a monkey who was not a thief (this is crucial), blows his Great Grandfather’s antique 4-foot long kudu horn to send the runners down the Old Taos Highway toward Pojoaque. How’s that for different?

We had no idea it would be this way. Three years ago this month, we set out for Kenya with 300 pounds of solar reading lights, school supplies, indestructible soccer balls, the first kites ever flown in Abraham’s village of Matungen, a dozen Aerobies (the world’s farthest thrown object over flat ground with no wind, and which I threw a solid 250 yards over the school, to the amazement of all) and other cool stuff. The story of our Kenyan journey is a long one.

Without any idea that we would see, let alone possess such powerful items, we returned home with the horn, cape, hat, and several other ceremonial objects. Of course, we have the perfect occasion to use and honor them once a year.

age group medals

Previous years’ handmade age group place medals

We strive to make every aspect of Santa Fe Thunder meaningful and memorable. From six live musical groups along the beautiful point-to-point downhill course through three Pueblos, to the Pojoaque Pueblo Youth Hoop Dancers performing at the finish line party at Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino, to the 180 age-group medals (three-deep in fourteen age groups in the half marathon and 5K), this year, handmade by the artisans of the Gachupin family of Jemez Pueblo, Santa Fe Thunder provides more than the average race.

Also, each year we celebrate a person whose journey has inspired us, and has led the way for the next generation. In 2011, we honored Joe Vigil, Olympic and Hall of Fame Adams State Coach; in 2012, Billy Mills, Olympic Champion; in 2013, Wrestling legend and Founding Father of Ring Intensity, The Ultimate Warrior; in 2014, Steve ‘King of the Mountain’ Gachupin; and in 2015, Caroline Rotich, 2015 Boston Marathon Champion and Santa Fe resident. We are proud to announce that Peter Koech, Grandfather of Kenyan running in New Mexico, former Steeplechase World Record Holder, and Olympic Silver Medalist will be honored and will participate in race weekend activities!

And finally, don’t get us started on the City Different, which captivates and surprises us every day: that story is 400 years long! We invite you to join us and Run the Race Different!

Smooth Running,

Joseph Karnes
Race Director