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All-Day Run: Cantu adds to track record with HMMoM victory

By Thomas Sellers Jr.
mls-01-05-ruben-cantu-run-4cThe Tipton County resident hooked on running took on his latest challenge this fall.
Ruben Cantu, 73, ventured down to Memphis for the 18th Annual Tour d’Esprit Sept. 30. Cantu wasn’t leaving the Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Memphis until Oct. 1. That was the plan because it was a 24-hour run.
In that timespan, Cantu was on the course for 23 hours and 32 minutes completing 79 miles. That was good enough for first-place overall among 218 runners.
“I found out in the morning I was in the running for overall winner,” he said. “I was at mile 74 and my nearest competition was at mile 70.  I was like, ‘He’s at mile 70 and I’m at mile 74. I’m four miles ahead. If I do 5 more miles. He’ll have to lap me in order to beat me.’ He never did.
“He quit at 71,” Cantu added. “He told me afterwards, ‘You were going so fast. Your splits were faster than my splits. I thought I would never catch up to you. So I quit two hours earlier.’ I told him, ‘You should have told me so I could quit too. I was so tired.’”
Cantu’s exhaustion was for a good cause. The Tour d’Esprit, Memphis’ only 24-hour walking and running event, benefits Haiti Medical Missions of Memphis.
HMMoM staffs and stocks a medical and dental clinic and rehabilitation center in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti, just outside of Port-au-Prince. T
his facility provides free services to Haitians who have nowhere else to go for medical care. Since the 2010 earthquake, The Holy Spirit Clinic has become one of the most important medical facilities in the region. The clinic also employs more than 30 Haitians.
“It’s a one-mile track they have laid out in a parking lot,” Cantu said. “It’s really well-prepared. They keep a big generator with lights going the whole night over the course. You’re never in the dark. There were little kids, 10 year olds running this race.”
The certified one-mile loop starts at the Church of the Holy Spirit and includes asphalt parking lot, grass soccer area, woods with a chat/gravel path in Holmes Park, and a grass path behind the church.
Cantu said the mission of the Tour d’Esprit is wonderful and the even itself is first-class. The veteran runner is familiar with classy operations running all over the United States.
In 1983 Cantu started with a reasonable task of the 1,000 Mile Year Club running an average of 3 miles a day.
Then at the age of 40, Cantu increased his running load from 10k and half marathons to marathons and 50-milers. He has even ran 100-milers. He has more than 40 marathons under his belt and continues to add to that total in his 70s.
Cantu was motivated to get into running because of his family’s history of cardiovasular issues. His passion has given him health, memorable experiences and an education of worthwhile causes.
“I’m 73 and I don’t have any major health issues and I don’t take any medication,” he concluded. “Running has afforded me that.”
To get involved with next year’s Tour d’Esprit, register online at or at the church at Haiti Medical Missions of Memphis, 1779 Kirby Parkway, Box 319,Memphis, TN  38138
Race location is Church of the Holy Spirit located at 2300 Hickory Crest Drive in Memphis, TN 38119

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