About the Author: Bruce Williamson serves as Consul General at the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey, Mexico.
On Sunday, July 5, 2009, at 7:30 a.m., more than 1,500 runners participated in the inaugural "U.S.-Mexico 10K Green Race" in Monterrey, Mexico. The fitness enthusiasts ran through Monterrey’s picturesque Parque Fundidora, in the shadows of steel mills that were converted into museums and sculptures in the 1990s. Different from most local races, these runners were not competing for cash prizes, but rather to raise awareness of everyone’s shared responsibility to do more in protecting the environment.
The race was organized by the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey in cooperation with Pronatura Noreste, a Mexican non-government, nonprofit organization dedicated to nature conservation. The focus of the event was three-fold: to commemorate U.S. Independence Day with an open, all-inclusive activity; to celebrate the bilateral relationship between Mexico and the United States; and to show that a bi-national commitment toward resolving environmental challenges could be reflected on a community level.
The runners were an eclectic crowd, ranging in ages from 8 to 76. Since July 5 was Election Day in Mexico, a number of racers could be seen with “Running to Vote” written on their shirts. As featured in the region’s most prominent newspaper, El Norte, many participants expressed tremendous satisfaction in a day that combined exercise, environmental awareness and civic duty.
Mexico’s first-ever green race generated a great deal of interest. In addition to the hundreds of individual volunteers, a number of prominent sponsors enthusiastically hopped on board to provide support. The U.S. financial institution GMAC generously donated two trees for every race participant. As a result, more than 3,000 trees will be planted in nearby Santiago to reforest an area scorched by a raging fire in 2008.
In addition to the trees, there were several green aspects to the event. Whenever possible, race materials were made from recycled material, and all waste from the race was separated and recycled. Each participant received a reusable grocery bag to reduce plastic consumption. Local artisans handcrafted more than 1,500 medals as well as 60 trophies from mesquite wood. As part of a Pronatura program to protect trees through a more sustainable use of the mesquite resource, these artisans have migrated their livelihood from charcoal to art production. All race proceeds went directly to Pronatura to support their projects that encourage increased sustainable use of precious natural resources.
With the race over, the work of planting the donated trees can now begin in August. The tree planting is expected to be a big event, perhaps with even more volunteer organizers than the race itself. As part of the race promotion effort, the race’s volunteers collected more than 4,000 e-mail addresses and created a Facebook group (EUA Mex Green Race) that now numbers 637. The organizing committee intends to continue its innovative use of Constant Contact and Facebook to spread the word and get more people involved in the weeks and months ahead.
By all accounts, the race was a smashing success. Everyone who had a hand in putting it together is now looking forward to carrying the momentum into next year, with the idea of growing the number of race participants and cementing the race as a fixture in Monterrey’s robust annual race schedule. The U.S. Consulate in Monterrey wishes to extend a very sincere thank you to everyone who helped make this year’s historic U.S.-Mexico 10K possible.