Running is a sport that is usually associated with rigorous training, ambitious time splits and a constant improvement of race performances. We seem to run against ourselves, that slower and less optimal version of ourselves. Aire Libre came into existence as living proof that running can be so much more than just racing against ourselves. The running project was born in the middle of the desert in the northwestern Mexican state of Sonora, where we ran 56 miles in one day for pure laughs and enjoyment. The Seri people, who have lived in this land for centuries, not only gave us their blessing and permission but also saw our run as a ceremonial act of personal sacrifice. Could running really be this? Could running be this act of connection between our physical bodies and the astounding magnificence of nature around us? We thought it could.
Discovering the World Through Running
This is how running became our vehicle for discovering the world around us. Our legs became our medium for exploration, but not only of the beautiful geographical features of the land around us, but also an exploration of our ancestral roots through contact with wise indigenous communities like the Seri in Sonora, or the Zapotec in Oaxaca, or the Tohono O’odham in Arizona, or perhaps the Aymara in the Bolivian Andes. These traditional cultures, through their spiritual wisdom, led us inevitably on a journey of self-discovery. So we were not only running through breathtaking natural landscapes but also connecting to our deeper essence, our true selves, which is a feat difficult to attain in modern city life.
As Aire Libre, we ran and we explored, all of this while capturing our adventures in video documentaries. The Land of the Seri was the first one, followed by the Pueblos Mancomunados (Commonwealth of Villages) in Oaxaca’s Sierra Norte, where we went deep into the realm of the Zapotecs and their quest for sustainability. These videos went online and resonated with many runners in Mexico and around the world. Many of our followers expressed a strong desire to become part of our expeditionary runs. This wasn’t feasible in the beginning, but it bred the idea of perhaps creating a format in which runners could join a group and come share our running philosophy with us. That’s how our international running retreats and experiences came to life, in the beginning of 2017, partnering up with Canadian outfit Running Off The Grid (OTG).
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That first running retreat in the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca has become one of our signature experiences. We designed the retreat being mindful of pure enjoyment of the senses and from disconnecting from the hectic pace and stress of living in urban areas. To illustrate what the experience is like, we first arrive in Oaxaca City, an epicenter of vibrant cultural life and color, where our participants enjoy some of Mexico’s finest cuisine and get to run through old buildings and cathedrals from colonial times. However, we take great care for our group to interact with the local communities. They don’t just admire their surroundings as tourists, but actually get their hands dirty learning how to work clay into pottery, going into the backstage of a textile workshop or seeing firsthand how agave gets ground and smoked to become mezcal.
Pueblos, Cloud Forests and Lush Hills
We then head up into the heights and depths of the nearby Sierra Norte, into its network of charming Pueblos surrounded by cloud forests, lush hills and maize plantations. A typical day starts waking up early to a morning meditation session, surrounded by tall trees and exquisite silence. A hearty and energetic local homemade breakfast usually follows, and the group then gets to run from one town to the next, through fascinating natural terrain, arriving to the next community, where a deliciously warm meal and a nice wooden cottage, along with all of their belongings, are already there waiting. In the afternoon, a much needed stretching and yoga session brings relief to the muscles and sets the tone for a relaxed evening, in which we usually take the time to explore the local ancestral traditions in the form of a refreshing temazcal (sweat lodge) or a traditional herbal medicine session.
A Healing Experience of Spiritual Renovation
The result we have consistently observed is that this combination of physical activity out in nature, of the discovery of ancestral culture, and of deep personal introspection leads to a healing experience of spiritual renovation for our participants. They say they come back home transformed, feeling relaxed and waiting for the next opportunity to go out and keep exploring.
Other Magical Running Experiences
Just as magical as Oaxaca are our running experiences in Chiapas, another southern Mexican state, in the border with Guatemala, characterized by a strong indigenous identity and mysticism, along with wildly impressive landscapes of high jungles, lagoons and mountains. Trail & Kale will be joining us in Chiapas on their first Aire Libre running experience this January.
If you would like to be a part of this life-changing running, culture and wellness retreat, please visit the South & Central Chiapas Retreat page to learn more. You will also get the opportunity to meet new friends with a shared passion, including Alastair & Helen from Trail & Kale.
If you do decide that you would like to book the Chiapas retreat in January, select our referral code at checkout to receive a $50 store credit at the Trail & Kale Online Store.
We also invite groups into the depths of the legendary Copper Canyons of the Sierra Tarahumara, where the Born to Run folks shared miles with the local Rarámuri, the running people. In 2019 Aire Libre will also begin offering experiences in the Bolivian Andes, through magical places such as the Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca and the Death Road that leads to Coroico and the Yungas region. We will also take groups to the southern tip of the continent, through the glaciers of Patagonia in Chile.
Aire Libre has taught us that running doesn’t have to be a pain. It can actually be the vehicle for enjoying life in a way previously thought not possible. Come join us and start exploring the world through running.