SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – In hopes to heal communities affected by COVID-19, indigenous youth in Utah plan to run 360-miles within the span of five days.

According to SLC Air Protectors, from May 18 through the 22, young runners from all over Indian Country will embark on a 360-mile journey over the course of five days.

Officials say the runners hope to draw attention to issues surrounding COVID-19 while bringing healing, unity, and resilience.

“Running has traditionally been an integral part of body and mind wellness in indigenous communities, and this medicine is especially needed now in the wake of the devastation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” writes the organization.

According to SLC Air Protectors, the goal of “this prayer run is to strengthen the relationship between Indigenous communities and residents of Utah, as the runners travel through the state bearing prayers and motivation to heal the pandemic-induced stress experienced by all.”

Officials say the starting point for the prayer run is Bears Ears National Monument, a culturally and
historically significant site for members of regional Native communities who worked hard to
secure its designation as federally protected land.

The runners will then every morning commence with an opening prayer provided by an Elder, and then set off to complete their journey.

“It will take five days of running to reach the final destination in Salt Lake City, with their longest stretch measuring a lengthy 115 miles,” they add.

According to event organizers, the destination, Warm Springs, is also a significant site for the original residents of the Salt Lake Valley – the Ute and other Nations.

“It was the Valley’s first landmark, long before any of our city’s architectural icons existed.
In addition to the healing brought to communities along the way, the positive impact on
the participants is immense,” SLC Air Protectors chime. “Running as Medicine helps them form connections with the environment, each other, and their own communities, which is crucial during this time of limited social interaction.”

SLC Air Protectors will be hosting this year’s prayer run in partnership with Navajo
Strong and Utah Division of Indian Affairs.