Yatika Fields goes great lengths

Yatika Fields crosses the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Oct. 11, 2021. Courtesy Photo/Yatika Fields

For 120 years the Boston Marathon was held on Patriot’s Day, but the Coronavirus pandemic had other plans. For the first time, in October 2020 the Boston Marathon was held on Indigenous Peoples Day. So, who better to represent Indigenous peoples than Yatika Fields?

Running with Wings of America, Fields (Osage/Muscogee Creek) used the special opportunity to represent Indigenous runners. Wings of America empowers Indigenous youth to excel in school using running as a motivation. Fields explained the program offers kids the opportunity to travel the country for races. For the Boston Marathon, the group had the opportunity to run the Boston 5K and listen to panel talks at Harvard University. They also helped Fields and other Indigenous artists to create a mural that thousands of people would see, which only added to the beauty of the day.

The trip was especially important for Fields since it gave him the ability to utilize his talents in long-distance running as well as in art. Fields is a resident of the Tulsa Artist Fellowship where he uses his paintings to represent his heritage.

“My running keeps me goal oriented, and my paintings are my practice,” Fields said. “They really go hand in hand for me because they are both art in a way. They require discipline, the nuances of health consciousness and they take me to beautiful parts of the world.”

Fields’ primary focus is oil paint on canvas although he recently got into mural work. So, when the opportunity presented itself to paint a mural on-site at the Boston Marathon, it was the perfect opportunity to represent.

“Murals have a further reach. More people can see them, and it creates such a large space to represent the Indigenous community,” he said.

Fields was excited to bring his talents to Boston, and now, his plans span globally. 

“This March I have a big race in Mexico, another in Oklahoma and a 100-mile race in June. The next marathon I want to do is Berlin,” he said. Fields explained that he's used to running longer races that span 50 or 100 miles, and that a marathon is a different ballgame entirely.

“It’s more effort over a smaller period of time. I finished in just over three hours. It was a really beautiful experience, and I learned a lot in the process, but I felt like I could definitely be faster. Every week I'm training so that I’m able to race at any point.”

He described the body awareness it takes that goes into the training discipline, eating healthy and staying hydrated to keep the body a well-oiled machine. Fields is glad to share that practice with the kids at Wings of America and he hopes to see even more programs in place for Native communities— sports and arts alike.

“I think it’s great for our minds, body and spirit. I would love to see more initiatives. For our longevity and for ourselves.”