“Out in the West Texas town of El Paso
I fell in love with a Mexican girl.
Night-time would find me in Rosa's Cantina;
Music would play and Faleena would whirl.”
Why am I singing a Marty Robbins song? Because I’m at Rosa’s Cantina getting ready to run with Faleena. Well, not really, but instead I’m going to run with my running club, Run El Paso. We are heading up Mt Cristo Rey which has one of the largest (42ft) sculptures of Jesus on its peak. Thousands of people make the pilgrimage to the top of this 4675 ft high mountain every year.
Rosa’s Cantina, on the other hand, was made famous in the 1960 hit song, “El Paso” where a cowboy falls in love with a Mexican girl and then finds himself in a gun fight over her. After killing his challenger, the cowboy must flee, yet still longs for his girl.
“Am on the hill overlooking El Paso;
I can see Rosa's Cantina below.
My love is strong and it pushes me onward.
Down off the hill to Faleena I go.”
Now, my theory is that this hill that overlooks Rosa’s is Mt Cristo Rey. I can’t prove it, but in studying the surrounding terrain, I’m pretty sure. There may be a doctoral dissertation in this tale somewhere.
Anyway, since this is supposed to be a running story, I’ll get on with it. The sun isn’t even up yet, but all the runners have gathered at Rosa’s. We set off, not for Mt Cristo Rey just yet, but along a road to some canals and the local park. After all, it’s only a short 8 mile out and back to the peak and we need to get in at least 13-15 miles today. I don my headlamp and grab some chia seeds and away we go.
The weather is perfect for running as there is no wind, my least favorite element. Temps are cool and no sun to worry about yet. The pack soon starts to split up into several groups and I try to find the right pace. I don’t even know where I’m going so I just follow the leaders and hope I can keep up. We wind around some canal paths along the Rio Grande and eventually make our way back to Rosa’s.
More runners are waiting there and join us for the run to Mt Cristo Rey. I grab my camera and we are off. We cross a bridge that spans the river and in no time are in New Mexico. We could actually run through Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico in a short amount of time, because we are so close to the border. I look over towards the mountains on the US side. The clouds are a gorgeous shade of red above a silhouette of peaks.
We start to run on a gravel road and then I spot a brick cave that looks much like a tunnel. Maybe it goes to Mexico. I’ll have to explore that on the way back. Soon I’m at the entrance to the “park” and I start the ascent up. 820 ft of elevation gain, but at least the trail is switch backs all the way. I can see the beautiful cross and statue; our destination.
All along the way I see crosses, shrines, and memorials of different types; a testament to the faithful who cherish this holy place. Of course I stop for many photos on the way and meet up with several other runners.
We chat as we make our way up the mountain, zig-zagging back and forth, gaining a little more height on each zag. The sun is peaking through the clouds and we are almost to the top.
As I near the pinnacle our speedy runners are descending and give me a few words of encouragement. Finally I reach the top and can see two states and a foreign country. I gather the running group together for a photo in front of the enormous crucifix. After taking in the view, I start down and think to myself, wow, the chia seeds are really kicking in...or is it just that gravity is on my side now?
Well, before long I’m back to the “tunnel to Mexico” and can’t resist a look inside. It is a shallow cave mostly lined with bricks. I take a few shots and then start running again. I cross the Rio Grande once more and am back at Rosa’s Cantina where the gun-slinging cowpoke died in Faleena’s arms after returning for her.
The good news is that Becky, the Run El Paso Club President and other key members have provided breakfast for the runners. Nothing hits the spot after a long run like a south western breakfast burrito and pastries for recovery. As far as Faleena goes, you’ll have to listen to the sequel song (Faleena) to hear her fate.
“…Out in El Paso, whenever the wind blows
If you listen closely at night, you'll hear in the wind
A woman is cryin', it's not the wind sighin'
Old timer's tell you, Faleena is callin' for him….”
…see you on the trail.
Run El Paso Club