The Running People
Rex Pace, an ultrarunner, once said, "Pushing your body past what you thought it was capable of is easy; the hard part is pushing yourself even further ... past what your mind wants to let you. That’s what ultrarunning is all about; introducing you to a self you’ve never known.” The human body can do amazing things, especially when it comes to running. Although most people think of running as a pain in the behind, a small minority are crazy about it. These people live and breathe running. People like a Scott Jurek, or Ann Trason, well known endurance runners, can clock in more than 150 miles a week because to them, running is not just a sport, but a lifestyle. Because of these people, ultrarunning was born and has taken its hold. All over the country, races anywhere from 50 to 300 miles long are taking place, and only the best runners complete them. That is, the runners who want to be known. However, there is a group of people who have been called “the finest natural distance runners in the world”, yet barely anyone has heard of them. These very shy and isolated people are known as the Tarahumara Indians, and they are incredible endurance runners. This is evident in the way they live and how they incorporate running as a part of their lifestyle.
The Tarahumara Indians also call themselves the Raramuri, which translates to mean foot runner. These Indians live in the Sierra Madre of Mexico, in “small isolated clusters with most of the population concentrated in the…Copper Canyons” (Beauregard). The Copper Canyons consists of five canyons, three of which are deeper than the Grand Canyon. The terrain is very rugged, nearly impassable to outsiders, and there is a lot of vegetation. Due to cold temperatures, the soil is bad for growing crops, and so the “Tarahumara are semi-nomadic and cave dwellers for part of the year” (Beauregard). They also live under cliffs or in small cabins. Because they live so deep within the Copper Canyons, they do not receive many visitors, so the Tarahumara are a very shy bunch. Life is very simple because “the Tarahumara still want nothing to do with money and material things that are not important to them” (Beauregard). Family and running are probably the two most important things to a Tarahumara Indian.
Speaking of running, the incredible endurance of these Indians may be, in part, due to their healthy diet. The main staple food is corn. Almost everything the Tarahumara eat contains corn, such as their favorite: Pinole. Pinole is basically corn ground to a powder and then toasted. A few other common foods would be squash, beans, chili, wild greens, and handmade tortillas. Meat is only eaten on special occasions because animals are usually kept for farming purposes only. The Tarahumara eat “approximately 10% protein, 10% fat and 80% complex carbohydrates” (Lutz 31). This ratio keeps the Tarahumara fueled with energy all day long, and helps them stay fit by consuming so little fat. Although the “Tarahumara diet is very simple…nutritionists agree that it is very healthy” (Kennedy, 20) and is linked to why the Tarahumara are such great distance runners. They also have a special drink that can only classify as the best energy drink around. Made with only the seeds of the chia plant, water, and a little lime juice, this drink, which they call iskiate, can energize a person for the entire day. The chia seeds are tiny, but are “superpacked with omega-3s, omega-6s, protein, calcium, iron, zinc, fiber, and antioxidants… [and aid in] building muscle, lowering cholesterol, and reducing your risk of heart disease” (McDougall, 44). Their diet keeps these Indians strong, fit, and always ready to run.
For the Tarahumara, running is simply a part of daily life. In some ways, their running abilities are due to the biggest social event in their culture: the rarajipari. The rarajipari, or foot throwing game, is a competition between the male adults of two neighboring villages that...
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