The Tarahumara People And Running Essay

3252 words - 14 pages

The Tarahumara People and Running

For the people to whom running is a lifestyle, ultra marathon running seems an old phenomenon, one that has been a part of daily life since its beginnings. Running more than twenty-six miles a day seems a menial task to a Tarahumara, a daily chore, while to the Americans running next to them it is an all consu ming feat. These people, known world wide as "the running indians" have recently made their appearance in the ultra world and are showing everyone how easy running really is for them. As they breeze by the likes of Ann Trason and many respectable others, the questions mount. Who are they and how do they run so fast?

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The Tarahumara routinely run distances only covered by only the most advanced ultramarathon runners today. To these indians, running is more than sport, running is literally life. The Tarahumara live in very rugged land and travel by wagon or horses is usually impractical. Because of this, foot travel is more often than not the best option for getting from one place to another and it is usually the quickest. While on foot, the Tarahumara do not stroll from one place to their destination, running is used to perform everyday tasks. It is not uncommon for a Tarahumara to travel between fifty and eighty miles everyday at a "race" like pace.

Tarahumara running is based on endurance not speed. This fact is exemplified by their hunting practices. In order to catch such wild animals as deer, wild turkeys, and rabbits, the Tarahumara simply chase after the animal until the animal drops from exhaustion. Their hunting practices are widely known in Mexico and ranchers have been known to hire the indians to chase down wild horses . It is also said that a Tarahumara once ran six hundred miles in five days to deliver a very important message. Their endurance and conditioning has become k nown worldwide. Says Dale Groom, M.D., "Probably not since the days of the ancient Spartans has a people achieved such a high state of physical conditioning." (Lutz 21) This phenomenon has led to the inevitable question of, "Are the Tarahumara genetically special when it comes to running?" After many scientific tests, doctors have come to the conclusion that the Tarahumara's endurance is based more on conditioning than on heredity. Experts believe that there are two main causes for the Tarahumara's amazing endurance; physical conditioning and cultural importance. Diet also seems to play an important role in their running. The Tarahumara diet is practically meatless and consists mostly of complex carbohydrates. They eat approximately 10 percent proteins, 10 percent fat, and 80 percent complex carbohydrate.(Lutz 30) Balanced diet is believed to be one factor behind the Tarahumara's resiliency. The Tarahumara take cooperative farming to the extreme and agriculture is a project for the entire village.(Welker 2) They consume livestock for meat but mostly use it as a source of fertilizer. The mainstay of the Tarahumara is corn but they also eat squash, beans and chili. They also utilize all plants of the Barranca del Cobre and have even been known to domesticate some wild plants as to make them more accessible for consumption. Pinole, a fine powder of toasted corn is the most common food. Meat is rarely eaten but on special occasions they eat goat, mice and fish. The Tarahumara method of fishing is very unusual. They throw sticks of dynamite into the water to stun the fish and then dive down to collect them. If they are hunting small game, they chase after it and then throw rocks a t it. The Tarahumara is very accurate throwers and practice from childhood. These extreme eating...

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