MONUMENT VALLY, Utah-Different health providers for the Navajo people in the area took the idea of exercising to a higher level by "Raising the Bar to Exercise" on Oct. 19 by non-competitive events from walking, biking to riding horses that covered some 40 miles.
"This has been a team effort of so many different health providers and many, many people," said Marlene Valentine, Health Education Technician with the Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Project (NNSDP). "It was something we all wanted to do for the benefit of our community members, but it turned out that we had people from as far away as Tohatchi, N.M. and Many Farms. Each event is a part of our lives and it gives us mobility for our health."
The event started at 7 a.m. with the 13.5 mile bicycle relay. The registration and coordination of the bike ride was coordinated by the NNSDP, Kayenta Service Unit. The bikers took to the gravel road early as the sun was about to break over the horizon in the chilly morning air. Some of the riders continued to ride and finished at the Oljato Chapter House covering a distant of 18.5 miles.
The second event was a five-mile wheelchair relay that started at 8:30 a.m. There were three participants in this event. This event was coordinated by Toh-Den-Nas-Shai Disability Support Group. The third leg of "Raising the Bar to Exercise" was the horseback ride from the chapter house to Gouldings Grocery Store and then on to Monument Valley Park. Most of the 21 riders were from the local area and ranged in age from toddlers to elderly. This event was coordinated by Olato Chapter Administration.
When the horseback riders arrived at Gouldings Grocery Store at 12:30 p.m., walkers took up the next 5.5 mile phase of the event as they walked to the Monument Valley Park. This was coordinated by the Utah Navajo Health Systems. When walkers and horseback riders arrived at the park, runners took off back to Monument Valley High School for the four-mile run, which was hosted by the Navajo Tribal Park. The day's event concluded at Monument Valley High School football field with physical activities that evening, which got underway about 4 p.m.
Emmett Dick and Tyrone James rode their bikes the 18.5 miles to the chapter house.
"It was kind of cold this morning when we took off, but after a while, it got warm," said Dick. "We decided to ride on ahead and finish here at the chapter house. The course was hard, rolling hills along the way that made it good."
"It was nice to ride, but it got cold in the shade," said Doris Dennison of Buffalo Springs, N.M. after she completed her wheelchair ride. "I enjoyed the scenery and the pretty environment."
Gloria Clah and two of her girls said they took off ahead of all the horseback riders and got ahead of everybody, but they had to wait for the main group to catch up before they continued to Gouldings Grocery Store.
"We just took it easy and slow and enjoyed the ride," said Clah. "We were hoping the rest of the riders would catch us before we got too far ahead. We were at the chapter house, but we had to go home first. We saddled up and left from home thinking they were right behind us but they were at least two miles behind us."
Valgene Zeena pushed his mother, Darlene Singer in her wheelchair in the morning with help from his cousin Calhoun Zeena. The two young boys also participated in the walk and then ran back to the high school in the afternoon.
Valentine said that horseback riding is an activity that has been growing in recent years for people in the community. Most of the riders, she said, participated in seven other rides during the year. Valentine said that the Thanksgiving Ride for the youth is one of the biggest they have that goes from Monument Valley Park toward Oljato that covers some 30 miles.
"We are all delighted to have many participants in the day's event," Valentine said. "Raising the Bar to Exercise" is a step forward for the sponsors and the participants because it takes us all to the next level for healthy living."