Many of you may be familiar with Tony Portera as has written countless This Week in Running (TWIR) segments for iRunFar. TWIR has tailed off of late as Tony has seriously ramped up his training over the past year. Why? Glad you asked. On January 18th, Tony and two friends, Chris Roman and Jarom Thurston, will begin seven days of running the 350 mile Caminho Da Fé (Path of Faith) route in Brazil. The run will include the Brazil 135. As Tony is part of the iRunFar family, I wanted to share his special journey with all of you. Fortunately, I knew how to get in touch with Tony for an interview.
Bryon: Last year, you ran the Brazil 135 can you tell us a bit about that experience?
Tony: Haha…Yes, TWIR has tailed off a bit…I’m not so sure it is purely a result of a serious ramp-up in training. But, it will be back, I promise, and better than ever. Brazil 135 in 2010…quite an experience. I am sure I saw a part of the world that I would have never seen but for the Brazil 135. It was a unique experience, meandering through small villages and municipalities on a dirt road that either went up or down (never flat). It was yet another opportunity to face challenges in extreme conditions in remote areas, and to learn a lot about the human spirit and resolve.
Bryon: Wasn’t that enough?
Tony: Well, I guess not! I suppose you can say that I’m somewhat hooked on these types of challenges. You really have to go out there and experience it for yourself to understand just how amazing the journey of self-discovery can be.
Bryon: So now you’re headed back to Brazil on a 7-day, 350 mile mission to run the Caminho Da Fé. What is the Caminho Da Fé and what was your inspiration to run it?
Tony: The Caminho Da Fé, or Path of Faith, is a pilgrimate route that leads to the Nossa Senhora Aparecida Basilica in Aparecida, one of the world’s greatest Marian centers. Inspired by the Spanish Camino de Santiago, it is intended lead pilgrims, traveling by foot or bicycle, on a spiritual journey. The route is mostly along the Mantiquiera Mountain Range passing through villages, rivers, waterfalls and woodlands of the Atlantic Forest.
The path is extremely challenging – the Brazil 135 Ultra portion of it alone has 30,000+ feet of climb and descent. When I ran the Brazil 135 Ultra in 2010 I was really taken by surprise with what the Caminho Da Fé was and had to offer. It, like some other events/courses I have covered, draws you back. Running the entire route is a way to see more of a part of the world that is intriguing and inspiring, but, most importantly, doing so was a perfect opportunity to try to raise funds and awareness for the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
Bryon: What do you think will be the greatest challenges in running the he Caminho Da Fé?
Tony: Probably the distance itself and having the Brazil 135 Ultra in the middle of it. Keeping up with nutrition and hydration will be extremely important. We have to tackle about 133 miles over the first 3 days, but then run right into the Brazil 135 which we hope to do in under 48 hours. Crossing the finish line is not the end… 84 more miles await us over the next two days. So, I think that amount of distance over the short period of time, and the mental and physical challenging that doing so will bring, will be the greatest challenge of the entire run.
Bryon: What are you most looking forward to?
Tony: Getting to share this adventure with some fantastic people. I ran the Brazil 135 in 2010 with Jarom, and spent some time with Chris during his traverse of the entire Erie Canal in late 2010. I’m looking forward to getting to know those guys, and many others, even better by the time we finish with our 350 miles. Also, and this is really exciting, we will be given credientials when we start the pilgrimage. As we reach certain towns the credientials will be stamped as proof of our passage. If we are successful in reaching Aparecida, we will be given a “Certificate of Pilgrimage” and be forever considered “Pilgrims”.
Bryon: How can we follow your progress during the Caminho Da Fé?
Tony: With the help of a SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger, starting on Monday, January 17 you will have the ability to track our progress in near real time using Google Maps at the following link : https://tinyurl.com/4ns88ts – this link will go “live” after we arrive in Brazil on Monday.
The SPOT Messenger will send our GPS coordinates to our Shared Page map every 10 minutes while we are in motion (assuming we are in a location that permits it to obtain a satellite signal), so make sure to check the map often to see where we are and where we have been.
Bryon: How can folks support the work you and your friends are doing in Brazil?
Tony: By making a donation to the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) at this link : https://tinyurl.com/ydxpyou. CAF is an amazing charity that provides opportunities and support to people with physical disabilities so they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletics. We began with a fund raising goal of $40,000… we are short, but we can still hit our mark with some help.
Bryon: Any final words before the beginning what will be by far that hardest physical challenge you’ve ever undertaken?
Tony: Of course. The challenge isn’t about me, Jarom and Chris. It is about the Challenged Athletes Foundation and all they do for those with physical disabilities. Our hope is that by undertaking this tremendous challenge we bring a greater awareness to the efforts of CAF. And, of course, we owe a lot to our sponsors, and friends and family who have supported us as we have prepared for this adventure, as well as people like Chris Kostman and Mario and Eliana Lacerda who continue to establish, develop and support events like the Brazil 135 Ultramarathon and thereby creating forums for us to challenge, and learn from, ourselves in epic events in extreme conditions.
Bryon: Best of luck to you, Jarom and Chris. I look forward to saying “Howdy, Pilgrim,” the next time we meet.