Mexican Woman, Ultra Marathoner and Goat Herder Wins 50Km Mountain Race in Sandals: Leaves 500 Others in Her Wake

With no proper training, María Lorena Ramírez ran more than seven hours to take first prize

The Tarahumara of northern Mexico, live deep in the cliffs and gorges of Copper Canyon.  They call themselves, Rarámuri, meaning “those who run fast”.  They are ultrarunners, with an ancient fleet-of-foot history that continues to thrive. They work together in teams, with a long tradition of covering hundreds of miles on foot over several days to communicate, trade and hunt.

One of their own, 22-year-old María Lorena Ramírez won this year’s Ultra Trail Cerro Rojo in Puebla, central Mexico. Wearing a skirt and her traditional huarache sandals treaded with tire rubber, she defeated 500 runners from 12 countries in the women’s 50km race: Her time – 7 hours, 3 minutes. According to race organizer Orlando Jimenez, “She brought no gel, nor energy sweets, walking stick, glasses or those expensive running shoes that everyone wears to run in the mountains. Just a bottle of water, her hat and a kerchief.”

People have written books and filmed documentaries about the Tarahumara. According to author Christopher McDougall, the Tarahumara “treat running as a fine art, something to be learned slowly and perfected over a lifetime”. The men enjoy a traditional ball race called Rarajipari and the women run their hoop and arrow race called Ariweta.

It is said Ramírez had no professional training but we propose that she is a natural, born into the love of the sport. She leads an active lifestyle; walking 6 to 9 miles a day herding goats and cattle.  Her win earned an award of 6,000 pesos ($320) and last year she placed second in the 100km Caballo Blanco ultramarathon, in Chihuahua.

As a Puebla community website stated after her victory: Ramírez ran “without a hydration vest, without running shoes, without Lycra and compression socks, with none of those gadgets used by the runners of today” – and achieved the impossible! (or at least what we think of as impossible) Let us know what you think!

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