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Relay run on Navajo Nation raises awareness of diabetes

Noel Lyn Smith
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — An annual relay run is once again bringing a focus on diabetes prevention this summer.

The 5th annual Running for a Stronger and Healthier Navajo Nation is an eight-day relay that crosses the reservation.

It is coordinated by the Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Project and was initiated by then-Vice President Rex Lee Jim in 2011.

Charlene Begay, program supervisor at the Shiprock Service Area for the program, said the focus of the run is to raise the awareness of diabetes and to promote healthy living through diet and exercise.

"We always tell people it starts with them," Begay said.

The relay run enters the Northern Agency on Thursday with a 6 a.m. departure from Dennehotso Chapter then continuing to Mexican Water, Teec Nos Pos and Beclabito.

On Friday, the relay leaves Beclabito at 6 a.m. then travels to Gadii'ahi-Tokoi, Shiprock, Tsé Daa K'aan, San Juan, Nenahnezah and Upper Fruitland.

It starts at 6 a.m. Saturday from Upper Fruitland then concludes in Lake Valley.

Begay said runners are needed for the Northern Agency and registration starts at 6 a.m. at each of the participating chapter houses.

Runners are assigned mile markers where they start and the distance they complete is determined by the individual, she said.

As of Tuesday, runners had completed 274 miles and were headed through chapters in the Western Agency.

This is the third year Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez has participated in the relay.

"Let's combat diabetes. Let's take back our health," Nez said in a telephone interview on Tuesday from Red Lake-Tonalea Chapter in Arizona.

He called the relay run a "great event" and said some participants, as young as 5 to older than 60, said they ran to improve their health, honor their families or raise community awareness of diabetes.

"Some have overcome adversities, some have overcome health issues," Nez said.

The vice president and Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye signed a proclamation for the event on Saturday.

Begaye issued a memorandum to executive branch division directors, granting tribal employees up to four hours of administrative leave to participate in the run.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.