This morning, Craig Curley, a Navajo long distance runner from Kinlichee, Arizona (near Ganado), will compete in the Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston, Texas with the country's elite.
The three men and women first to cross the finish line with qualifying "A" standard times for the trials will represent the United States in the marathon at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, held July through August 2012.
Curley hopes his years of training and dedication will pay off today. In preparation for the trials, Curley ran "doubles"—once in the morning and once in the evening—nearly daily. "My running template of my day tends to be splitting my running into one run in the morning and one run in the evening. I do this mostly because I like running on different surfaces outside. Two a days enables me to cover as much ground on various trails, roads and sometimes the track, and Southern Arizona offers some amazing trails."
And Curley doesn't stop there. "I also put in time at the gym for core strength and strength training. I use free weights or the medicine ball and concentrate on fixing any muscle imbalances. This type of cross training acts as a precautionary excercise to keep injuries at bay."
Juggling his running regimen with his part-time work schedule has been no easy feat. "I have a funky schedule most days because I work part time and I pick up any extra hours when my job requires some extra help," Curley told Runners Feed.
Luckily for Curley, the work environment is conducive to his lifestyle and goals. "I help people get fitted for running shoes and my coworkers are very supportive of my training," Curley shared. "I appreciate having a job where I can get to know my community. The moral support I receive is very special."
Additonal support comes from Nideiltihi Native Elite Runners (NNER), which sponsors American Indian distance runners in the Four Corners Region. NNNER "helps with the cost of travel to races, lodging and gym access," Curley told Runners Feed. "More significantly this organization is geared toward helping the youth on the Navajo Reservation. NNER is one way I keep in touch with the my hometown and reach out to the community with my running."
So what does this go-getter do to rejuvinate? "Other than that I pepper in all other hobbies on my downtime, which consists of watching a rerun episode of Rifleman or Man VS Wild and doing yard work because it relaxes me."
Even though running has the potential to send Curley to the 2012 Olympics and powerfully impact his life, at the same time, it grounds him and keeps him connected to his Native roots.
"As a Native American, growing up I was shown how to value life and cherish the world that surrounds me. Even though this is a small part of the Native American Tradition and Culture, the mindset can be applied to running," Curley said in an interview for NNER's blog. "You run to care/cherish your body and in return you get the exercise that benefits you to live a healthy lifestyle. In addition, in the Tradition it says to pray in the morning when you run…however you can hear the complete sermon from a different source, but the teaching of the Tradition is there for youngsters to develop a sentimental connection to the natural world in hopes that the youngsters will learn to respect/value all the gifts of the world."