After the release of Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Never Seen”, the tiny chia seeds (Salvia hispanica), which are a traditional food in Central and South America, have quickly become popular in other parts of the world. The active ingredients that these seeds include securing a host of health benefits, inter alia, essential fatty acids, high levels of dietary fibre, minerals, omega 3/6, and many more – the list is endless.
However, this is not going to be one of my articles on the health benefits of these seeds, but rather on the people that feed on those and are regarded as probably the sturdiest long-distance runners in the world. These people are called Tarahumara or Rarámuri.
Tarahumara – the Ultra-Marathon Legionnaires
Initially, the Tarahumara were inhabiting most of the state of Chihuahua in Mexico, but later, pushed also by the Mexican mafia cartels who were killing them mostly for fun, they have retreated to the depths of the gigantic Copper Canyon (Las Barrancas del Cobre). These staggering canyons are larger than the Grand Canyon in the U.S. state of Arizona.
Rarámuri’s population nowadays is not more than 120,000 who are still living in natural shelters such as cliff overhangs, small wooden or stone cabins, or caves. Their staple crops are beans and corn, and as I mentioned before – chia seeds. Probably, they derive their superpowers from them.
In the Tarahumara language, Rarámuri means “those who run fast” or “runners on foot”. Since their settlements were scattered around the rough canyon, these people slowly established a tradition of running long distances up to 200 (320km) miles or more in one single session.
In his book, McDougall explains how the reclusive Tarahumara Indians make their own beer and tequila, drink the night away, and in the early morning one just jumps and starts chasing a deer. The duration of the chase depends on how durable the animal is. The man continues the pursuit until the deer collapses dead-tired. Sometimes this could be more than 48 hours. A big majority of the world population is incapable of running 48 minutes.
Of course, this comes with abundant amounts of practice, but the Tarahumara seem to enjoy every mile they run. Quite understandably, their superpowers are matched with impeccable health and peacefulness which makes them literally immune to illnesses and contemporary strife.
The Book “Born to Run” Which Sheds More Light on Tarahumara and Their Amazing Feats
McDougall’s book wouldn’t have been written if it had not been the help of Caballo Blanco (The White Horse), a loner from the United States who has been accepted to cohabitate with the tribe. Thanks to him, the author not only unveils the secrets of these supernatural people but also discovers his inner ultra-athlete while preparing himself for the challenge if his life. This challenge was characterised by a 50-mile run through the canyons of Tarahumara with the tribe in a race against an interesting group of Americans which includes a barefoot runner, a surfer, and a famous ultramarathoner.
The book is an exhilarating and very informative synthesis of the science. It is the first place I read about chia seeds and the Tarahumara super athletes. It motivated me to run more and to overcome all the crap I have read about how running wears out your joints. It is not the running itself that wears them out, but the incredibly bad sneakers which are created by brands like Nike, Adidas, and the like.
And, as a conclusion, I would like to share with you my running shoes – Brooks Cascadia. No, this is not a paid post about them. I am just sharing sneakers that are designed by one of the best long-distance runners – Scott Jurek.
When and where did you hear about the amazing Tarahumara people and long-distance running? Did this article make you more motivated to run?