SHIPROCK — Cathie Johnson, 60, and her husband, Troy, 67, have run 209 marathons together.
On Saturday, as they ran the 26.2 miles of the Shiprock Marathon on N.M. State Route 13 and U.S. Highway 491, they never left each other's side. And the smiles never left their faces.
Clad in matching neon outfits and dancing as they ran, the couple, who is from Red Boiling Springs, Tenn., attracted attention throughout the course, which started in Red Valley, Ariz., and ended in Shiprock.
For runners like the Johnsons, the Shiprock Marathon is just one of many runs in which they will take part. They do it, they said, because of the people they meet and because it is a way to see the world.
Two marathon participants from opposite corners of the world met Friday evening at a pasta dinner for the runners. Gavin Sacks of Johannesburg, South Africa, and Vincent Ma of San Jose, Calif., exchanged stories and compared motivations during the dinner.
They both admitted they made sacrifices in other aspects of their lives to maintain their marathon lifestyles. For Ma, the Shiprock race for his 22nd marathon this year.
Sacks, who works in real estate in Johannesburg, said clients and co-workers are sometimes unhappy with his time away. He gives up commission he would normally earn to travel to marathons in Europe and the United States.
"You only live once," he said.
Between 6:15 and 6:30 a.m. Saturday, Central Consolidated School District buses dropped 284 runners off at an otherwise arbitrary spot on Route 13, right across the New Mexico-Arizona state line in Red Valley. The early drop-off gave the runners time to stretch, mingle and make use of the line of portable toilet before the race started at 7 a.m.
As music blared from the speakers, Chris Begay, the master of ceremonies, called out the cites and states some of the runners call home.
Many runners, some never before having visited the Southwest, looked around in awe of the views of the Lukachukai Mountains, the Sleeping Ute and Mitten Rock as the rising sun brightened the landscape.
At 6:50 a.m., the crowd became quiet for a moment of silence before lining up.
Usually a desolate, quiet stretch of road, Route 13 pumped with the energy of the race.
Fifteen aid stations situated about every one mile were manned by cheering volunteers in neon yellow shirts. They provided the runners water and Gatorade, and many of them handed out power gels, fruit, candy bars and pretzels.
Jasper Benally, of Kirtland, was at the first station two miles into the race. Large speakers played a variety of upbeat music from Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" to modern dubstep.
Once the runners passed through his station, Benally loaded his speakers, running on a generator, onto his SUV and drove along the course, continuing to support the runners to the very end.
Many of the volunteers along the course worked in honor of the late Reevis Begay, who, before passing away to colon cancer, asked his family to continue supporting the Shiprock Marathon.
Weather and wind in the past have been an issue on race day, but runners of the 31st Shiprock Marathon enjoyed a relatively mild low of 40 degrees at the beginning of the race, which then rose to a high of 85.
Along with those who travelled to the area to check the Shiprock Marathon off their bucket list, there were locals from Shiprock and Arizona's Red Valley, Chinle and Tuba City.
Leo Peacock, 17, of Red Valley, ran his first 10K race Friday and won with a time of 41 minutes, 30 seconds.
"I love the slick, red rocks (of Red Valley)," he said.