By Clare Morin
A team of three Guatemalans will be bringing a spirit of freedom to the Atacama Crossing 2011. They are Ramiro Alfaro, Gabriel Delgado and Raimundo Riojas, collectively known as the Hombres de Maiz (the Men of Maize), in reference to the creation story of the Mayan culture. “We decided to run as a team to better represent our country,” explains Gabriel Delgado, “and to share what I think will be a truly bonding experience.”
The three Guatemalans are friends from their kindergarten days. Ramiro and Gabriel also share a powerful lineage through their grandfathers, who were the founders of one of Guatemala’s most prestigious universities. They were, as Gabriel says, “true champions of liberty. They fought many battles against totalitarianism in our part of the world,” he explains. “I think that may be why we love these races – because of the freedom involved!”
The first of the three friends to come across a 4 Deserts race was Ramiro, who entered the Gobi March in 2009. The American-born, Guatemalan-raised CEO had already run in various marathons and Ironman races, but he says he came across his ultimate racing experience in China. “I got to challenge myself every day, meet great people in my tent, on the trail and at camp, all while enjoying incredible scenery and at the same time learning about a different culture.”
It made Ramiro want to take on all 4 Deserts. He soon had his eye on the Sahara Race 2010, but had to delay his entry due to knee surgery. When he recovered enough to enlist in the Atacama Crossing, he asked two good friends to accompany him. “I wanted to share this experience with friends,” he explains. “It’s so hard to explain what you go through in the race.”
Raimundo was immediately up for it. The younger brother of one of Ramiro’s best high school friends, the two later became best friends when they met again through the Young Presidents Organization (YPO), a worldwide association for young leaders. “I made a commitment to Ramiro that I would do at least one desert with him… this is it!” says Raimundo. Explains Ramiro: “Raimundo missed out on the Gobi March 2009 and could not bear to miss another one of these adventures again.”
Gabriel also shared a passion for endurance races and agreed to the challenge. The three competed together in the New York Marathon in 2010 and are now training together with their eyes held firmly on Chile. “It’s great to share an intense experience as this one,” points out Ramiro. “Not only do you share the event itself, you share the journey, the sacrifices, the lifestyle change, the juggling with the rest of life’s responsibilities,” adds Raimundo.
It’s also about telling the stories about these epic experiences, the myths that live into the future. “I think experiences are better shared because they are lived over many, many times in the stories we tell,” says Gabriel. “But I also think our country needs positive stories about achieving and how exerting effort pays off and how Guatemalans are capable of dishing it out with the best of them.”
Watch out Chile: the Hombres de Maiz are coming.