The Head of the Earth

By Doug Chartier


Troy Eid was up and running before dawn, with the towering, rocky scalp of Navajo Mountain on one side of him and the Milky Way streaming overhead. This far out from civilization, and 500 miles from where he practiced law in Denver, the stars were especially brilliant.

According to Navajo tradition, Eid wasn’t really supposed to be doing this — running a marathon around Navajo Mountain in the Arizona desert, the site of a legendary battle in Navajo creation myth. From the Judeo-Christian perspective, this would be like lacing up running shoes and pinning on a racing bib to do laps around the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

But here he was, along with several other distance runners, both Navajo and non-Navajo like himself, observing a sacred running tradition of rousing in the dark and heading east to greet the rising sun at what the Navajos named Naatsisaan — “The Head of the Earth.” There, and at that pivotal moment before dawn broke upon the high desert, the holy spirits would bestow their blessings.

The week before his 53rd birthday, the Naatsisaan Trail Ultra was the hardest run of Eid’s life. And by the end of it, he wanted to keep going.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the November 28, 2016 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.