Monday 22nd of July marked the 22nd edition of the Indio Nuyoó race in Huajuapan de Leon, my adopted hometown in the Mixteca region of southern Mexico. This race commemorates the heroic efforts of native Mixteco José Remigio Sarabia Rojas (better known as the Indio Nuyoó) to liberate the city of Huajuapan from Spanish rule in 1812. It takes place during the city fair and is quite an event, attracting runners from as far as Puebla and Huatulco on the pacific coast. This would be my second time running the race. The route is short but tough, taking in a climb of around 300 meters before a steep descent over wet rocks then a flat section of around 3k finishing up in the town square. I measured the distance as just shy of 10k and finished in just under an hour.
Around a couple of hundred runners took part in this year’s edition of the race. Before the race we congregated in front of the monument of the Indio Nuyoó in the colonia El Calvario. Quite a few runners arrived early to sign up and collect their numbers and I was happy to see one of my students and sometime training partner at the start as well as some familiar faces from races in Puebla and Oaxaca state. Still having a full belly from yesterdays buffet lunch I didn’t anticipate a fast start. In fact, since the race starts up-hill and a lot of the less experienced Mexican runners tend not to pace themselves; it’s generally advisable to hold back a bit.
And so the gun fired for us to start. The short climb at the start passed quickly and the street bottlenecked so as to push the runners together. The road then turned into a wider throughway then wide dirt track. After about a kilometer this track plunged downhill and turned onto the main road out of Huajuapan toward the state capital Oaxaca de Juarez. By this point in the race the field was well spaced out and you could already see the leaders off in the distance. The road dipped gently up then down then up again over about 500 meters before the runners turn onto the dirt track toward el Cerro de la Soledad (the lonely hill). El Cero looks over Huajuapan and standing at 300 meters it doesn’t really stand out too much from the rest of the mountains around the city. Nonetheless it can feel like quite a tough climb for a 10k race.
As soon as we break off the main road we move onto a steep but runnable track toward the mountain. This gradually builds over 3 or 4 hundred meters before reaching a section of steep rough stony path. By this point my student has passed me and I’m a bit disheartened to see a lot of the other runners still managing to run when I feel a lot like walking. I’ve ran this part of the course before in training but I find it can be hard to hold a steady pace running uphill during a race and I don’t always find that running to be faster than walking with a such a steep incline. Besides this, I was still recovering from the last week’s ultra and didn’t want to tire myself out at the start of what was to be a long race. So, I walked for 200 meters or so and maybe lost a couple of places. At the end of the section I was able to run again to make up some ground until we reached the next steep bit and the fence. Last year, the fence meant crawling under barbed wire but this year, thankfully, we had an open gate. After passing through the gate we headed straight up el Cerro toward the summit. By this point I was really starting to feel the heat. The race had started at 10am, which is quite late by Mexican standards. We had also had clear skies all day so the thermometer had climbed into the thirties. The altitude of Oaxaca is 1,800 meters. I’d also made the questionable decision of wearing sleeves to hide my sunburn from last week’s ultra so I was beginning to struggle. I probably lost another couple of places over this section but didn’t feel too bad since I’m familiar with the course and knew the time could be made up further up the hill.
After a brief rock climb, the track moves into the shade for about a kilometre until the half way point then the summit. While there were still some steep sections, these didn’t last long and I was able to modulate my pace to catch back a few of the places I’d lost on the initial climb and eventually catch up with my student. Along the top of the hill it was flat single track for about 500 meters before a brutal drop back to the level of the start. This meant slowing right down for me. Despite being hot all day, it was the rainy season and rain in the early morning had left the rocks wet. I was also using thin soles that bruised my feet a bit when I hit the rocks too hard. I lost a lot of time on the downhill and a lot of places, but in the interest of safety I think it was worth it, although, I might try and train some more for this next year. A particular problematic aspect of the race for me was the abseil near the bottom of the hill. The abseil is basically just a rope dangling over some rocks and can be quite dangerous but, to be fair, the runners are given the choice to do the abseil or run around. Last year it was dryer, I hadn’t lost quite so much time on the downhill and I think I even managed to win a place on by doing the abseil. This year things didn’t turn out so well. The rope was wet and my wet trainers didn’t hold onto the rock so well so I had to shimmy down the rope rather than using my legs. At one point I was left hanging on for dear life looking down at a 10 foot drop. So, I loosened my grip, slid down the rope and set off with burnt hands. In fact, the burns turned out to be superficial but I managed to lose a bit of skin off one finger. Back on the main road and the relative flat back into town it was a lot faster but had already lost my student who seemed to have raced down the hill no problem. I made up two or three places on the way back to Huajuapan before we turned a sharp left for the final 500 meter sprint downhill toward the town square. I managed to finish in just under an hour.
Overall I would like to say that the race was very well organized. The course was well marked with plenty of hydration along the way. The first hundred runners registered received a commemorative cotton t-shirt and the first hundred finishers received a finishers medal. I didn’t have a chance to check it out this year but on previous occasions the city has also provided a meal for the runners after the race. This is a nice gesture, especially since a lot of runners arrive and leave on the day of the race. One problem with this type of race is that it’s not always to find out when they’re happening. In general these are advertised by passing flyers and if you’re not at a race where the flyer is handed out or don’t know someone who’s going to the race it’s easy to miss out. Otherwise, if you find out about a race like this and are in the area, I’d highly recommend you check it out.