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Diné finishes Boston Marathon with purpose to inspire others

WINDOW ROCK

After going through years of bullying for being overweight, Patterson Yazzie III decided to turn the harsh words into fuel as he became an active athlete after high school.

Submitted | Patterson Yazzie III
Patterson Yazzie III was one of many Natives who participated in the 126th Annual Boston Marathon. He hopes his story of overcoming bulling and losing weight can inspire native youths.

He’d run in marathons, competed in the game show American Ninja Warrior, and now adds finishing the 126th Boston Marathon on his creditable.

“I hate bullying,” Yazzie said. “But I’m really glad to say that they did do that to me because without it I wouldn’t be right I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.”

This is the first time in two years that the Boston Marathon is held on its traditional date of April 11. In 2020, the prestigious race was canceled for the first time because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Then in 2021, the race postponed to Oct. 11, which coincidently was Indigenous Peoples Day, making it a little more special to the hundreds of Native runners who participated that day.

This year, Yazzie was one of many other Natives who ran in the race and felt very accomplished for finishing. Being apart of the historic marathon was rewarding enough, but he hopes it adds to a dream he has steadily been building to, competing in the Olympic marathon trials.

“I have a long road ahead of me and many miles left,” Yazzie said. “My long-awaited goal is to try and qualify for the Olympic marathon trials. I have some work to do but that’s something I know I can go after.”

Endurance athlete

For the past few years, Yazzie has steadily built his strength and his endurance.

What started, as a fun hobby became a journey to living a healthy and productive life. The first race he ran in was the Narbona Pass Classic back in 2018 and that was when he fell in love with running.

He is also a contestant on the show American Ninja Warrior, where contestants raced across an obstacle course using speed and strength.

Though he wasn’t the first Navajo to appear on the show, he still had a great time appearing on the program he and his father used to watch together when he was a kid.

Never did he think it was possible for him to be on the show.

In between his active lifestyle he was also studying at the University of New Mexico branch in Gallup.

In December he received his associate degree in criminal justice.

He qualified for the Boston Marathon after running in the 2021 Duke City Marathon in Albuquerque. He was very excited for the opportunity and started training almost immediately.

“So training was pretty good,” Yazzie said. “I like the way I train. I’m just really glad that I got a big support from my family, my mom and my dad especially.

“They were always out there every Sunday with me early in the morning when the roads were busy,” Yazzie said. “And we get up at like 6 or 7 a.m. They’d always be right there at every mile post and giving me my fuel whenever I needed it.”

He thinks that training in New Mexico gave him an edge as they’re at a higher elevation than the East Coast.

Often, he would run from the Arizona state line to Safeway in Gallup. He also focused on weightlifting and recovery; key aspects that he said helped him prepare.

At 21, this is his first time traveling to the East Coast, but hopefully not the last as he said it was an “amazing experience.”

Achievements

“Running that race and getting to be around that environment in the community, but running community, it’s truly amazing,” he said. “I got to line up with some of the best runners across the world, some of the best marathoners, and that’s kind of a big deal for me, because as someone who’s always has been struggled with struggling with losing weight or whatnot, I’m always proud to say that I always started with running, I’m always going be that runner, no matter what.”

He came in 1,206th place overall, running against nearly 20,000 other runners with a time of 2:48:36.

He was also happy to see other runners from different Native nations competing. He didn’t know many of them, but was happy to have met another Navajo from Ganado, Ariz.

He is proud of his achievements, proud to be apart of the Boston Marathon history, but he hopes that all he has done can inspire native kids to live healthy active lives and not to be discouraged.

“Never did I think that kid in high school that was getting picked on would be out running in the Boston Marathon,” Yazzie said. “Once I picked up running, I always thought of it and use it as a tool to lose weight and now I use it as a way to motivate and inspire others.

“Don’t worry about what the naysayers say or whatever else anyone has to say,” he added. “Go out there and be you.”


About The Author

David Smith

David Smith is Tódích’íi’nii and born for Dziłt’aadí. He is from Chinle and studied at Northern Arizona University. He studied journalism and English for five years while working part-time for NAU’s NAZ Today and the Lumberjack newspaper. After graduating in 2020, he joined the Navajo Times as a sportswriter for two years before leaving in September 2022. Smith returned in February 2023.

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