Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
A new film sheds light on the running culture of the Tarahumara tribe.
For those familiar with the Tarahumara, it’s most likely due to their running prowess, Christopher McDougall’s bestselling book Born to Run or their seemingly curious footwear—historically they’ve run in sandals made from supplies they had at hand. However, as a tribe, they have a low incidence of heart disease, cancer and diabetes—inspiring filmmakers Dana Richardson and Sarah Zentz of Dana & Sarah Films to produce “GOSHEN,” their award-winning documentary about the Tarahumara tribe.
RELATED: Hungry Runner Girl: 5 Favorite Books About Running
“Our original desire was to raise awareness about how to people can reduce their risk of modern chronic diseases through changing their diet and increasing their physical activity,” say Richardson and Zentz.
However the scope of the film expanded after this year’s Ultra Caballo Blanco Marathon, taking place in the Copper Canyons, was cancelled due to drug war activity in the area.
“The cancellation reignited awareness of the drought, famine and threats that Tarahumara culture is facing,” Richardson explains. “Our hope is that ‘GOSHEN’ will raise awareness of the urgency for solutions and inspire people to take part in preserving the endangered native seeds and running traditions of the Tarahumara.”
RELATED: Born To Run Legend
Mexico’s Copper Canyons, where the Tarahumara live, is remote, imposing and arduous to get to. These factors are what kept their culture intact and largely uninfluenced by the outside world. They live a subsistence lifestyle—surviving by farming and foraging. Running and physical activity are integral aspects to the culture, and their diet is simple and primarily plant-based. Most time is spent on life-essential activities, such as collecting water, farming, grinding corn and making food.
“We were in awe of the incredible endurance and strength of the Tarahumara women,” Richardson says. “From watching women hiking endless miles while herding goats across rugged canyons to tirelessly grinding corn into tortillas from scratch, we were inspired to push the boundaries of physical activity in all aspects of our daily lives.”
Running, whether by long-distance travel necessity, entertainment or festival celebration, is a common cultural thread for both men and women. The film shows the Rarajipari, a ball race traditionally for men, as well as a hoop race for women (that can last the length of a marathon!) called the Ariweta.
“The one thing that impacted us the most was the laughter and joy the Tarahumara women exuded while running an Ariweta,” Zentz said. “They were not running just to compete. The race was a celebration and an event that involved the entire community.”
Christopher McDougall, “Born to Run” author who releases his second book, “Natural Born Heroes,” this month, appears in the film.