The Tarahumara Racing Tribe of Copper
Canyon Mexico have long been famous as perhaps the finest ultra long distance
runners in human history. This was never proven until The Tarahumara Racing Team
entered the Leadville Trail 100 Race in 1993 and 1994 and the Angeles Crest
Trail 100 race in 1997. From the extensive race records compiled by the
Tarahumara 1993-1997 we can now know what the Anasazi, Apache, Aztec and Inca,
all historically famous runners, as well as many other
Native American tribes could easily have run the 100 mile distance at high
altitudes and over very rugged terrain in seventeen to twenty two (17-22) hours.
Even less talented, older, younger and women Indian runners could have
covered these distances in less than thirty (30) hours. This is now clearly
validated for the Tarahumara Racing Team historical record in the USA and the
Richard D. Fisher, as the coach and sponsor said, "I believe from my in-depth experience spanning 2 decades with these Indian runners at the 100 mile distance, that fast times would be around 15-16 hours for the most elite prehistoric Indian tribal racers and messengers like the Inca, Aztec, Anasazi and Apache.
The Tarahumara Racing Team and sponsors Kit Williams and Richard D Fisher 1993
Archaeologist and Historians, you can bank on this information for your time and travel distance studies. This is documented scientific data, on the stop watch and on very well documented terrain, and is as good as it gets data.
At last now the fastest times were historically recorded at three races at Leadville Trail 100 in 1993 &1994 and the Angeles Crest 100 in 1997. While these fine Native American Racers had many adventures and mis-adventures, as might be expected, now historical records give us a very good idea of the ancient historically unrecorded Anasazi, Apache, Aztec and Inca running and distance travel abilities. As such, these Tarahumara Indian runners of 1993 - 1997 are an outstanding and lasting tribute to the Native American racers of recent times as well as Indian runners of old.
The History of Native American endurance running
1993 - 1997
From 1992 - 1998 approximately 35 Tarahumara Native American runners entered about 8 Ultra Marathon races in the USA. Eighty five perscent of the Indians runners finished the grueling races, most finishing in the top ten, winning four out right, and setting records in two. Also recognized is the oldest and youngest winners of any Ultra Marathon still today and the youngest winner and recored setter as well as youngest finisher ever recorded. An incredibly diverse and talented tribal athletes. A true record to be proud for Native Americans as well as all who love them. It must be noted that had virtually no funding, their families were starving and they had no education as to the form of "white man's" running style, very different from their own. They had no protections from various kinds of abuse applied trying to prevent them from winning and especially setting records.
The Leadville Trail 100 1993
1rst place - Victoriano Churro, 55, Tarahumara, 20:03:33.
The oldest winner of any Ultra 100 in history
2nd place - Cerrildo Chacarito, 38, Tarahumara, 20:43:06
5th place - Manuel Luna, 30, Tarahumara 21:26:09
60th place Benjamine Nava, 21, Tarahumara 27:45:49
Benjamine was the youngest finisher in history for an international
100 mile Ultra Marathon race.
The Leadville Trail 100 1994
Leadville was the venue for the USA debut of the Tarahumara runners of the Tarahumara Racing Team the first winning team ever organized for the tribe by thier coach and sponsor Richard D. Fisher. Tarahumara teams competed in the Leadville Trail 100 in 1993 and 1994 and won the event outright both years. In 1993, Victorian Churro a slender 55 year old came in first, followed by teammate Cerrildo Chacarito in second. Twenty five year old Juan Herrera won in record time of 17:30:42. His mark stood for 11 years. (Wikipedia corrected.)
As of 2013 the International Race Records Report the Tarahumara had the youngest as well as oldest winners in history of Ultra Running 100 mile races. The Tarahumara Racing Team also posted the youngest ever finisher.
1st - Juan Herrera 25, Tarahumara 17 : 30 : 42 : 24,
3rd - Martimano Cervantes 42, Tarahumara 19 : 46 : 33
4th - Rafael Holguin 25, Tarahumara 20 : 26 : 35 (tied)
(5)th - Gabriel Bautista 24, Tarahumara 20 : 26 : 35 (tied)
7th - Martin Ramirez 31, Tarahumara 20 : 51 : 07
10th - Manuel Luna 31, Tarahumara 21 : 09 : 07
11th- Corpus Quintero 22, Tarahumara 21 : 09 : 07
As the Tarahumaras traditional race in pairs, we see a number of ties. Had this had been know by the pacers the Tarahumaras would have many ran together to tie for 1st or second places in many races. In 1994 the 3rd place finisher Martimano Cervantes would have tied for 1st. with his village team mate Juan Herrera, had he not been held back by his pacer True Shaggy Hickman.
This is a truly incredible record of Tarahumara racing prowess. Seven of the top 11 finishers. This show the American racing community that the Tarahumara were a real precieved threat to white domination. It is after this that many weird and dangerous things began t happen to the Indian runners out in the woods and in closed aid stations and also not being able to enter races officially. There were a few wins after 1994 but nothing like what coule have been. One must keep in mind that this was the first ever entry into a white mans race so they had no experience. If given the chance later they would have done even better. This was a true tragedy for many individual runners as the team really only had 2 chances at winning and they got virtually nothing for their efforts. The team sponsor Richard D. Fisher was the only one to pay cash rewards and tons of food to the villages of origin.
The Wasatch Front Trial 100
(not allowed to enter officially but ran start to finish with the Anglo racers, won and set the record)
1st - Gabrial Bautista 25, Tarahumara 19:57:31 Course record at that time
1st - Martimano Cervantes 43, Tarahumara 19:57:31 Tied for first and course record.
Western States 100 1995
3rd - Gabriel Bautista 25, Tarahumara 18:46:43
(despite being held in closed aid stations for an estimated 1 hour)
12th - Martin Ramirez 32, Tarahumara 21:41:29
(also held in a closed aid stations for about an hour)
Angeles Crest 100 1997
1st - Cerrildo Chacarito, 43, Tarahumara
The depth and ages of the Tarahumara racing team was truly incredible. There was a powerful and talented force of Native American running talent presented internationally from 1993 - 1997.
One clear result of these statistics and very brief facts is that if the Tarahuara Racing Team had received financial support from anywhere that Tarahumara would be an international running force at long distances like Ethiopia is today. Just as importantly, Native Americans would have their place in history as some of humanities most remarkable and greatest runners, not just legends but in fact.
That these are the very last of the running Indians in history if one searches the international results and times of these "ultra" races since 1998.
From my personal interest, I of course, wanted the Native Americans to have support for their natural god given talents, especially in athletics and arts. Lacking that possibility, I want to give a historical view so that it can be known what the Anasazi and later the Apache could do in unrecorded ancient times.
Above presented is the only scientific report ever made on Native American running quality and potential at long distances. From my experience I can also say that formerly there were more talented and enduring Tarahumara runners at longer distances than those those Tarahumara that we were able to present between 1993-1997.
As far as is know no high quality Tarahumara Racers have been presented to the international racing circuit since 1998. Why is that?
Tarahumara Racing Team and the Apache Running Warrior Geronimo
The Tarahumara Indian Racing Team that dominated long distance running in the 1990's heritage goes back to the Apaches of Geronimo's band. These Tarahumara Indian runners in Mexico, are descendants, in part, from the Chiricahua Apache and others who left the American reservation system in 1880-90's. I discovered the Tarahumara Ultra Marathon long distance runners of Copper Canyon while I was living on the Apache Reservation in the 1970's, teaching and coaching athletics. Geronimo was one of the leaders who fought at the last Apache uprising at Cibecue, in August 1881. There are lots of notable Mogollon Anasazi ruins in that area at Grasshopper and Kinishba, where the Anasazi, who started in Chaco Canyon, made their last stand. I went down to explore the Copper Canyon Mexico the homeland of the running Tarahumara Tribe because of my interest in the Apache, the Anasazi and specifically my personal research into Geronimo and his camps in the Mogollon Rim of Arizona and his “lost camps” and hideouts in the Sierra Madre of Mexico.
The Tarahumara Indian Racing Team and the Apache heritage link, took me on a path of discovery that helped resolve the mystery of the Chaco Canyon Anasazi, where they came from, where they went and why. There have been legends and rumors of the last Apache in the Sierra Madre in Northern Mexico for over a century. Getting to the know the family background of the racing teams led me to find what is perhaps the last wild, lost Apache's of the Sierra Madre. These three ancient tribes, the Anasazi, the Tarahumara and the Apache, lived, traded, and raided, running from the Copper Canyon north to southern Colorado spanning the past 1000 years. These three peoples shared the long distance running tradition.
At that time there were no guidebook nor maps of the vast canyon lands. After some years, the Tarahumaras in this virtually unknown and remote region showed me their secret hideaways deep within the hidden recesses in the gorges. Here, they had entire villages where their homes were hidden away from the White Man. These "Gentile" Tarahumara reminded me of the wild "Horse Boys" of the White Mountain Apache that still roamed the Cibecue Canyon area of the reservation, running and hiding in the huge rugged canyons. I lived in Cibecue Arizona for 3 years, the site of the “ghost dance uprising” lead by Geronimo. The Cibecue Apache are one of the most traditional Native Americans left in the USA proper. I was the athletic coach of the first ever winning wrestling team, and girls basketball and volleyball teams. I got an excellent opportunity to see and be directly involved with full blooded Apache youth with incredible, yet unknown, athletic talent. The Tarahumara are much more peaceful than the legendary fighting Apache. Nonetheless, they are very serious competitors when it comes to their endurance running, a “Warrior Tradition” in its own rite and now in the modern world.
1992 - 1998
Tarahumara Racing Team and the Apache Running Warrior Geronimo
Native American Running History
Geronimo, a Chiricahua Apache was the leader of the great running Apache warriors.
Native American spirituality - Awantar - a test of endurance in life and running
Geronimo and all of the Tarahumara runners and sponsors had something in common. One was, they had plenty of “Awantar”.
The first Tarahumara champion racing team in Leadville Colorado 1993. Victoriano Churro (2nd from right) was then and still is today the oldest winner at age 55 in Ultra Marathon running. Benjamin Nava (3rd from left), age 20, was the youngest finisher in Ultra Running history at that time. Carrildo Chacarito was 2nd place (3rd from right). Manuel Luna (far right) was 5th place finisher. Also pictured is Antonio Palma and Felipe Torrez from the Batopilas Canyon. Bottom row left to right is Kitty Williams, Patrocinio Lopez and Richard D. Fisher Tri-Team Captains and coaches. A very proud moment for the Tarahumara people and their coaches. This team eventually went on to have more than 50 International participants, 1992-1998. The team record - Winning 7 of 11 and setting records in 3. These are the only objective times, distances and terrain ever measured. From these performances, we now have a ruler from which to judge the historical record on the Apache, the Anasazi, and other famous Native American tribes. Surely, people who were running for their lives could move at this kind of pace through similar terrain all over North and South America. It is a know historical fact, in terms of long distance endurance, that the Native Americans could out run and out last horses which the Apaches were specifically known to do.
We know from the
Tarahumara legacy of the 1990s that these Apache running warriors could run from
the south end of the Chiricahua Mountains to “Campo Apache” in the Sierra el
Tigre, a distance of approximately 80-100 miles of very rugged canyon country in
less than 20 hours. Photo taken in the 1880s.
The only photographs every published of the Campo Apache in the Sierra el Tigre were printed in the Journal of Arizona History Vol. 27 No. 1, “Geronimo’s Hideouts in Mexico” 1986 by Richard D. Fisher.
Although I have since published many guide books, maps and magazine stories, selling hundreds of thousands copies, as well as sponsored the only ever in history International Championship Tarahumara Racing Team, I never revealed the locations of their hidden re-doubts. Like the Tarahumara and the Apache before them, I never came to fully trust the white man. As the years came to show, my concerns were well founded, but that is another story altogether and better told another time.
After the success of the Tarahumara Racing Team, some found our hidden lands, but had little success with their runners
Internationally or in using these reticent people for modern commercial sports “circus circus.”
In the early 1990's I found that the Tarahumara Racing game with the ball had become extinct for about a decade as the hidden villages would not participate with the Indians living along the roads any longer. In fact, they spoke a different dialect and did not like to converse with the “modernized” Tarahumara.
Since the Apache, and the Anazazi before them, lived in hidden in remote canyons and had to run and carry heavy burdens of
food and blankets and cooking pots, I was keenly interested to know exactly how fast and how far these Running Tarahumaras
could actually race. I was to find out in a very weird and rather extreme way.
An Ultra Runner, Kitty Williams, approached me about doing something with my long term relationship with the Tarahumara.
I first just said "no, history shows the white man and the Indian have a very long and bitter history. The Indian always loose and in fact, for the most part, the natives just die out...”
Victoriano Churro, the oldest winner in the history of ultra-marathon running and first ever Tarahumara Racing Champion 1993.
His winning time 20:03:33
From PBS (for the complete story see link below)
Narrator: In 1886, in the blazing summer heat, 39 Apaches raced across the desert southwest, chased by 5,000 American soldiers. They were the only Indian people in the entire nation still fighting the U.S. Army. For many months, the handful of men, women and children, evaded capture—running, running, then running some more, as much as 80 miles a day. Across the nation, Americans were horrified by details of the chase—some real, many exaggerated.
Thirty-nine people were on the run that summer, but the soldiers were really after only one man. To his hunters he was a vicious killer, capable of murdering without mercy. To the Apaches he was more complex—courageous yet vengeful, an unyielding protector of his family’s freedom, yet the cause of his people’s greatest suffering. In the course of the chase and in the years that followed, he would become a legend and the symbol of the untamed freedom of the American West. His name was Geronimo.
Ellyn Bigrope: Long ago Coyote opened a bag of darkness and it spread over the world. Creatures of the night loved it. But birds and little animals longed for day. The little animals played a game to win back the light. They won, but one night monster remained. After the game, the first human, White Painted Woman, gave birth to a son. She hid him from the monster. When the boy was grown, he faced the monster and killed it. He was then called Apache—all Chiricahuas are named after him.
Narrator: Geronimo was born sometime in the 1820s at the headwaters of the Gila River along the border of what became Arizona and New Mexico.
Jennie Henry, Cibecue Apache: His name is Goyaalé. We also call him Geronimo. He might have had other names too. A long time ago people used many names.
Narrator: As young as age six Geronimo learned to hunt. He would have spent hours crawling along the ground sneaking up on prey, catching birds with his bare hands. When he made his first kill he swallowed the animal’s heart raw and whole to insure a life of success on the chase.
Oliver Enjady, Chiricahua Apache: Young kids grow up dodging arrows, dodging rocks. They were taught to use the bow and arrow very early. They were taught to run and run and run as young ones. And then as they grew older, they depended on this.
Narrator: “No one is your friend,” Geronimo was told, but your legs, your legs are your friends.
Tim Harjo, Chiricahua Apache: There was always danger. There was always that fear, that just around the corner somebody would be coming across it to take your life.
Being on the run certainly defined Geronimo's way of life. He belonged to the smallest band within the Chiricahua tribe, the Bedonkohe. Numbering a little more than 8,000, the Apaches were surrounded by enemies—not just Mexicans, but also other tribes, including the Navajo and Comanches.
Raiding their neighbors was also a part of the Apache life. In response the Mexican government put a bounty on Apache scalps, offering as much as $25 for a child's scalp. But this did little to deter Geronimo and his people. At the age of 17 Geronimo had already led four successful raiding operations.
The last of the Apache-Tarahumara horsemen from Choguita-Narnarachi region of the Copper Canyon of Chihuahua Mexico. April 1994
They have now, by 2013, completely died out and are now an extinct sub-tribe as is their special language and culture.
I published a book that sold more than 10,000 copies on the connection between the Anasazi and the Ancient Knowledge of the Tarahumara and Apache Indians of today. Running, ancient agriculture, religious beliefs and load carrying are the main connections between these ancient Anasazi clans and modern yet traditional tribes. This is the front cover collage from 2003.
I have documented
Tarahumara Indians transporting loads of over 150 lbs for dozens of miles in
exceedingly rugged terrain in the Copper Canyon.
During the 1990s
the Tarahumara region was extensively deforested which caused immediate
micro-climate change and an intense drought set in.
American family to Tarahumara families. We all had some great adventures 2002-2011. Copper and Batopilas canyons, fabulous eco-tourism and cultural adventure destinations.
Learning and enjoying traditional Tarahumara lifeways during the famine relief expeditions.
The winning history for Native American running is confined to Jim Thorpe 1912, Billy Mills 1964,
and the Tarahumara Racing Team 1992-1998.
Jim Thorpe was perhaps the United States' greatest athlete of the twentieth century, an American Indian, Thorpe was born in 1888,was also known as Wa-tho-huck, which in the Sac and Fox language means "Bright Path." He indeed followed one of the brightest paths in United States athletic history, excelling in football, baseball, and Olympics competition. He was selected by the Associated Press as the greatest athlete of the first half of the twentieth century.
As was the custom of the day, the medals were presented to the athletes during the closing ceremonies of the games. Along with the two gold medals, Thorpe also received two challenge prizes, which were donated by King Gustav V of Sweden for the decathlon and Czar Nicholas II of Russia for the pentathlon. Several sources recount that, when awarding Thorpe his prize, King Gustav said, "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world", to which Thorpe replied, "Thanks, King".
In 1982, the International Olympic Committee finally recognized Jim Thorpe as the (co)winner of the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon. In 2000 a majority of respondents to an ABC Wide World of Sports internet poll did vote for Thorpe as the twentieth century's greatest athlete, and the results were announced prior to Super Bowl XXXIV.
William Mervin "Billy" Mills, also known as Makata Taka Hela (born June 30, 1938), is the second Native American to win an Olympic gold medal. He accomplished this feat in the 10,000 meter run at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. His 1964 victory is considered one of the greatest of Olympic upsets. A former United States Marine, Billy Mills is a member of the
While the Tarahumaras run in very minimal sandals, they would think anyone who ran barefoot in their terrain was a fool.