Running for Life - Page 4
Maria laundering her family's clothes in a trickling stream outside of Creel. Photo by David Clifford.
As we were driving out of the canyon, up the steep switchbacks from Batopilas, David Appleton told a story about a Corona truck that plunged off the edge and fell into the river. “The drivers were all messed up, but the Indians ignored them and plundered the beer. They thought it was a gift from God.”
Micah True, El Caballo Blanco, told me that the Raramuri are very detached. “You give them something, they take it. They are not going to over-thank you. The Tarahumara do not run for fun. I tell them that I run for fun and they look at me like I’m crazy. The Tarahumara run for material gain. To understand the Tarahumara, you have to understand korima.”
“Unconditional giving. That’s how they operate. You can run for 70 miles and know that when you get there, anywhere in the Sierra, you’ll be given a blanket and some food. They give like that and, consequently, expect it in return.”
I’d come to the Copper Canyon to learn about this tribe of super-runners and I was leaving with more questions than answers. I’d checked out some of the best trails imaginable, trails that wound through the pines and hardwoods and deserts and along rivers, through pastures of boulders and up and down mountains for hundreds and hundreds of miles. I’d met native people who lived in caves and washed their clothes in the mountain streams. I’d talked to gringos who lived and ran with the Raramuri, but I still was no closer to understanding what it was that made them such tough runners.
I could say, like many others before me, that the Raramuri run so fast on trails because they live in the canyons and mountains and engage in a pastime that is, as scholar John Kennedy puts it, “more than a game, [but] an economic activity, a force for social cohesion, and a channel for aggression.” The Raramuri are so good because their physical and social reality, every aspect of their life, is intricately linked with running. I could say that, but it’s not what I observed.
Then, as I was beginning to feel my mood turn down toward dejection, we rounded a bend and the school we were passing in Majinache let out for the day. Two young boys came bounding alongside the van and passed us with such speed and alacrity I almost missed the fact that they were kicking a ball of hard wood, running full tilt down the rocky road, right foot bare, each one holding a tire-tread huarache and laughing.
They were running like you and I run, not because bets were laid or they had some place to go. Those boys were running for the sheer joy of it, running past the peach trees and through the boulders, raising the ancient dust like so many generations before them and I realized in a flash that as long as there are trails in the Sierra, there will be Raramuri running.