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The “Superhuman” Tarahumara Runners

Back in 2009, in the book Born To Run, Christopher McDougall described the Tarahumara, a tribe that lives in the canyons of northwestern Mexico, as a tribe of “Stone Age superathletes”, because they can run great distances of very steep terrain “without even breaking a sweat.”

Born to Run also introduced the wider world to a Harvard anthropologist and evolutionary biologist named Daniel Lieberman, whose research on the evolutionary origins of running led him to hypothesize that even modern humans would be better off running either barefoot or with minimally supportive shoes. Colorful tales of the Tarahumara mixed with Lieberman’s scientific cred made for a potent combination, and interest in barefoot and minimalist running exploded after the publication of McDougall’s book.
In the years since, there have been critical reappraisals of the case for minimalist running. Now, in an article in the journal Current Anthropology titled “Running in Tarahumara (Rarámuri) Culture: Persistence Hunting, Footracing, Dancing, Work, and the Fallacy of the Athletic Savage,” a team of anthropologists take aim at the myths and misunderstandings that have arisen over Tarahumara running culture. The lead author? None other than Daniel Lieberman.

Are the Tarahumara people really “born to run”, just like what the title of McDougall’s book suggests? What is their secret to running a hundred miles?

Know the answers over at Outside Online.

(Image Credit: Carl S. Lumholtz/ Wikimedia Commons)


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