Born to Run? How Raramuri Runners Dominate Ultra-Marathons in Sandals | NBC Left Field

Over the long, graded hills of Chihuahua, Mexico, tucked deep within the Sierra Madre Occidental, live people shrouded in mystery — and I went to find them. So I drove five and a half hours from Chihuahua to Guachochi to find out why this elusive and indigenous community are some of the best long-distance runners in the world. Their name, Raramuri, means “those who run fast,” and some historians say they’ve been running deeper into these canyons for centuries. When Cortes and his conquistadors invaded and conquered the Aztec, they found refuge in this harsh landscape. And today, they’re the last Native Americans in North America to live the same lifestyle they did centuries ago. So yeah, being an outsider, how did I expect to meet them? Well, there’s a 100K ultra-marathon in their hometown, and last year,
a 22-year-old Raramuri named Lorena Ramirez won the 50k in just a skirt and plastic sandals, and she became an
overnight sensation. And she started doing some press, which gave me an opportunity to meet
these fascinating people. I met Lorena at her cabin to see how she prepared. She didn’t eat anything except a banana and a bite of croissant. She sipped on something called pinole, which is milled corn, a few herbs, water, and sometimes brown sugar. She didn’t stretch, she didn’t run up and down the stairs or run up and down the hall, but she was focused. When I asked her why she ran, she said, “Because I’m good at it.” To get a better understanding of how they’re different, I talked to Dr. Andres De Leon, who conducted a study in collaboration
with Copenhagen University. And their heart rate is slower, which is common in other athletes After running hundreds of miles in hard sandals in this terrain, their feet become wider, with thicker calluses, making them less prone to injuries. She’s in like 46-something kilometers, and she’s sprinting up these f… these hills. Lorena’s father, Santiago,
was a part of these studies in 2012. When living their traditional lifestyle, they’re less prone to cancers, obesity, and other common diseases found in Western society. But when cities and the associated lifestyles are introduced, they begin to develop the same diseases. So for Lorena and her family, it’s
important to keep it simple. When I caught up with Lorena, around the 63K mark, she was 30 minutes in the lead. But then the temperature dropped and the
sky opened. And somewhere in the pouring rain
and hail, Lorena was passed by Carmela Martinez of Mexico City, and finished a minute behind to place second in their division. Overall, the Raramuri swept the race. Of the 100K men’s division, the top nine were all Raramuri. The day after the race, before going back into the mountains, where they would continue to run and I left for the city, Lorena and her family relaxed. Hey, thanks for watching! And if you liked this video, please subscribe to watch more videos from NBC Left Field.

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