Have you ever managed to complete a 5 km or a 10 km race without stopping? That moment of victory when you cross the finish line makes for the ultimate feel-good factor, but imagine being able to run hundreds of kilometres without rest… in sandals! The Tarahumara, or as they call themselves, Raramuri, are a tribe of 50-70,000 Indigenous people who have inhabited the Sierra Madre mountains in north-western Mexico for 500 years. Their name comes from their ability to run extremely long distances across rugged terrain either barefoot or in home-made sandals called huaraches. Meaning ‘swift of foot’ or ‘running people’ in their native language, Raramuri men and women – old and young alike - can run for hundreds of kilometres at a time while keeping a relentless pace. Formerly cave-dwelling communities of 3-7 families linked together by a complex network of trails, the Tarahumara once used trail running to deliver messages, communicate between families and hunt prey, chasing down deer until they were too exhausted to escape. Today, most still practise a traditional lifestyle, have little contact with modern civilization and have few modern conveniences. Tucked away in remote regions, they live in natural shelters or small cabins, depend on agriculture and hunting for their livelihood and speak the Tarahumara language.

Sports experts are astounded by the Raramuri’s endurance that surpasses even the best Olympic athletes. But for this Indigenous tribe, running has long been an integral part of their culture – they run to live and live to run. Scientists have attributed their remarkable super-athlete skills to their evolutionary history, barefoot natural running technique and a high liquid and glycogen diet, including home-brewed low-alcohol corn beer. When two Raramuri runners competed in the 42-kilometre marathon during the 1928 Olympics, the ultimate test of physical and mental willpower for most athletes, they continued running after they had crossed the finish line. When told that they could stop running, the confused Raramuri complained to the officials that the race was too short!
Feb 5, 2016
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