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Yurni Lezama, the Pemón runner who does not give up on the asphalt of Caracas


The indigenous athlete of the Taurepán ethnic group from southern Venezuela who has won two ultramarathons seeks to break his mark in the CAF Marathon this Sunday. The first time he tried it, the asphalt and pollution played against him

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Yurni Lezama always stands with one foot forward.

He is ready to run.

It is what he has done all his life in the savannah and tepuis of southern Venezuela and what makes him the protagonist of the documentary in progress entitled


, which in Yurni's language means exactly what he likes to do so much: "run ”.

This Sunday, the Pemón of the Taurepán ethnic group will try for the second time to run the CAF Marathon, organized by CAF-Development Bank of Latin America, which returns to the streets of Caracas after a six-year hiatus.

The 28-year-old indigenous man made a three-day trip to get to Caracas from the Paraitepuy community, a hamlet on the border of Venezuela and Brazil that is the prelude to Roraima, which has been his private gym since he was very young when he started working as a "porter", in charge of carrying up to 15 kilos of cargo up the mountain with the luggage and food of those who go on an expedition.

"The Roraima climbed it three times a month," he says without flaunting his feat.

It is about 2,800 meters to reach the top of

The Lost World

of Arthur Conan Doyle, an ancient wall that is a mystery to geologists, which is covered in three days of ascent and which for Yurni was his work.

Yurni Lezama stretches before training.Gabriela Oráa

At the end of a day, seven years ago, Yurni met the filmmaker Javier Melero, director and operator of the drone with which in recent years, along with his partner at Trapiche Films, producer Gustavo Alemán Troconiz, has shot the short film documentary that tells how he slipped in among the more than 5,000 runners who signed up for the 2017 CAF Marathon and managed to complete it in 3 hours and 20 minutes.

The story will finish recording this Sunday, with the support of the bank, when the city will be paralyzed between 6 in the morning and noon while a river of marathon runners runs hard and, among them, Yurni looks for a better mark.

“A friend I met on an expedition in 2016, the first time I went up Roraima, had a CAF Marathon cap.

At one point, when we were already down, Yurni approached me to ask me what that cap race was like, if it was very expensive, that he liked to run and that's when I understood that he had a story”.

This is how Melero remembers the coincidence with which he started everything.

“A few months later they called me, they asked me for my shoe and ID number and I was excited.

That's how I got to Caracas the first time,” completes Yurni, grasping Melero's Spanish.

The Pemón athlete during training in Caracas.

Gabriela Oráa

Yurni is not a beginner.

He has won two ultramarathons in the State of Bolívar of 85 kilometers, double what he will run tomorrow.

“In the Gran Sabana it is very easy to run,” he says.

"The air is clean."

He remembers that when he left the runners' corral on March 19, 2017, 25 kilometers into the road, he began to feel tired and cramped.

"I gave skin to my lungs," he says and laughs.

For this second time, he believes that he is more prepared.

The closest piece of asphalt road to his house is 26 kilometers away, about a four-hour walk, the same distance that he must travel to reach a clear telephone signal to communicate with the world.

So far he has gone running in recent weeks, without a coach or machines.

"I run with my heart."

After the pandemic and with the deepening of the economic crisis in Venezuela – which has lost two thirds of its GDP in the last decade – the tourism Yurni lived off decreased and the young athlete had to dedicate himself to survival crops.

The difficulties in cultivating his athleticism are partly what the producers also went through to record.

Yurni is far from everything and in Venezuela, a trip to Roraima can cost the same as going to Europe.

Recording in these inhospitable places implied special logistics that also had to deal with the rain, which is one of the few certainties of these expeditions.

They brought about seven backup chargers for the camera batteries, putting together a small, multi-tasking team.

With a stroke of luck and the patience of the documentary filmmaker, they were able to shoot unusual images of these places,

Katunko: Yurni's Journey


"The last shot we recorded at the top of Roraima is a miracle," recalls Alemán Troconiz.

"When we arrived at the sector known as La Ventana, at the top, where you can see the Kukenán hill on one side, it was all cloudy."

It was getting late and in a few hours they would have to go down to the caves, known as “the hotels”, where those who climb the tepuy stay.

"Suddenly the clouds parted like a curtain and we had the five minutes of clarity we needed."

Lezama trains on a street in Caracas.Gabriela Oráa

The director built the script together with Yurni, who spoke in his language during most of the recordings.

"As a Venezuelan, I had never heard taurepán and it seems to me a very beautiful and sonorous language and we wanted to show that other richness."

Beyond the natural and urban exuberance shown on the documentary journey, for Melero the story hides a metaphor that also has to do with the contrasts of life after the pandemic, which can be extrapolated to the region, and the own situation of Venezuelans.

"We don't have everything to win, but there are still those like Yurni who dare to dream big."

This Sunday Yurni will add new hours and minutes to that dream.

Source: elparis

All news articles on 2023-03-18

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