Arnulfo Quimare Last weekend, I had the honor of running with the world’s greatest endurance athletes: the Raramuri, an indigenous tribe living in the deepest canyons on the continent.The Raramuri (also known as the Tarahumara) scratch a living out of rocky, steep soil in the Copper Canyons of the Sierra Madre Mountains in northwestern Mexico. They are subsistence farmers who grow corn and beans and who live in caves or tiny huts scattered throughout four monstrous chasms—each deeper than the Grand Canyon.The Raramuri make their own clothes—including their sandals, which are just used tire tread wrapped to their feet with leather straps. Through deep snow and blistering heat, rocky canyon trails and thorny sagebrush, the Rarmauri travel virtually barefoot, the soles of their feet thick with calluses.The Raramuri are great runners because running is part of their everyday life. They don’t run for glory or competition—although they have entered a few races and defeated some of the world’s greatest athletes. They run to get somewhere—to visit family, to sell produce in town, to gather food, or even to hunt deer. With only primitive weapons, the Raramuri have hunted deer by literally running them to exhaustion.A few gringos have lured Raramuri to top endurance races, including the Leadville 100 Miler back in 1993 and 1994. Raramuri runners won the event both years and set a course record—wearing their hand-made tire tread sandals. But the Raramuri shy away from the glitz of American competitions. They prefer to run in their canyon homelands, often in traditional running ceremonies that involve hundreds of miles and last for days.Once a year, though, the Raramuri wander down from their caves and cliffside huts to run the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon, a 47-Mile footrace that has attracted not only the top Raramuri runners, but also the best athletes from around the world. Ultra legend and seven-time Western States 100 Mile champ Scott Jurek ran the Copper Canyon Ultra in 2006–and lost to Arnulfo Quimare, a 27-year-old goat herder wearing hand-made sandals.I ventured down to the Copper Canyons last week to join 225 other Raramuri runners and a dozen international running celebrities, including Hiroki Ishikura, Japan’s top trail runner. The day before the race, I tried on a pair of Raramuri sandals: I could barely make it 100 yards before my feet were screaming—the leather straps blistered the skin between my toes, and jagged rocks seemed to pierce the thin tire tread with every stride. After stepping inside in their shoes, my admiration for the Raramuri’s toughness was further magnified.Sharing the trail with the Raramuri was the most powerful running experience of my life. I learned a lot from observing their graceful stride and smooth running form, but I gained even more from seeing the pure joy on their normally stoic faces. The Raramuri understand something about running that has taken me a lifetime to learn: running is not a chore one endures to lose weight or look good; it is instead a joyful expression of the human spirit. For the Raramuri, running is a spiritual act that deepens their connection to the divine.Once again in 2009, Arnulfo was the first Raramuri to finish, covering the steep, rugged course with four river crossings in around seven hours. He wore a loincloth and worn-out sandals for 47 miles and ate only cornmeal mixed with water. Just a few days before the race, Arnulfo had trekked 40 miles across two canyons to get to the race (not exactly a taper), and the day after the ultra, he walked 40 miles back home to tend to his goats.The Raramuri run ultramarathons every day, and they do it with a pure spirit and a joyful heart—even as more logging roads rip apart their ancestral canyons and druglords murder their leaders. They are the ultimate endurance athletes.To learn more about the Raramuri, watch this 10-minute video I produced: Running for Their Lives. For more information about the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon, including photos and race reports, click here.
CARIBBEAN Cup Champions Jamaica recovered from a disjointed and shocking first half-hour of play to beat 10-man Guyana 4-2 in extra time, after the sides were deadlocked at 2, when regulation time expired.The third round CFU-Scotiabank Senior Men’s fixture, played last Tuesday night at the Leonora Stadium on the West Coast Demerara, was the first international football game staged at the venue and was witnessed by several thousand supporters who were left disappointed at the end after an enterprising and fruitful first half where the Golden Jaguars led the Reggae Boyz 2-0 at the interval.Coach Shabazz in search of a win made five changes to the starting line-up that lost to Suriname last Saturday, including replacing central defenders Quincy Adams and Colin Nelson. In their places came Jake Newton, who played at right back in Suriname, along with Dwayne Butters who was not in the 18 in Suriname.Captain Samuel Cox took up the right back position and Walter Moore held his place on the left. The midfield also showed changes from Paramaribo. Trayon Bobb and Brandon Beresford retained their places while Dwight Peters was omitted.Daniel Wilson and Warren Creavalle who were used as substitutes in the Suriname game were the other two midfielders in the starting line-up where Anthony Abrams replaced Marcel Barrington and Anani Mohammed came in for Vurlon Mills in the attacking positions up front.The Jaguars went on an all-out attack from the opening whistle and gave the fans much hope as early as the 7th minute, as central defender Butters timed a right-side corner kick, from left back Walter Moore, at the near post, to clinically nod to the far post for the Jaguars’ go-ahead goal..The Canada-based Butters again timed to perfection another spot ball kick on the stroke of the first half-hour of play, to nod past the Jamaican custodian Andre BlakeThe free kick from just outside the box on the attacking left was taken by Beresford whose kick went behind a flat-footed defence at the far post as Butters ran on to the ball that gave him an accommodating bounce to head past an unmoving Blake.The Reggae Boyz, still looking in disarray and shocked by the early 2-0 deficit, slowly began to get their composure and passes together towards the end of the first period as the Jaguars were seemingly running out of the early pace and ideas they showed before the break.On the resumption the Cup holders looked more imaginative and cohesive and after 10 minutes of play coach Theodore Whitmore made a double change and immediately the team looked more purposeful in their persistent attacks on the Guyana defence Coach Shabazz also made a substitution in the 62nd minute when he brought on Cashion London for Anani Mohammed.The constant pressure of the Reggae Boyz down the flanks finally bore fruit on Guyana’s goal in the 63rd minute when captain Jevaughn Watson found himself alone at the far post and calmly booted home a right-side throw-in into the box that was back-headed. Watson two minutes later got a booking for pulling back Bobb on a breakaway down the left side.Coach Shabazz then replaced Abrams with Vurlon Mills in the 66th minute and two minutes on, the home-side were reduced to ten, as Antiguan referee Kerry Skepple pulled out his red card to dismiss left-back Moore for a dangerous tackle on Dicoy Williams from behind.In the 72nd minute, Beresford clipped Corey Burke in the box and the referee pointed to the mark for Jamaica to equalise but they muffed the golden opportunity. The penalty kick by Shaun Francis down the middle was delightfully denied by the boot of a full-stretched Kai Lyle diving to his left. The home fans erupted and the Jaguars breathed a sigh of relief.The ten-man Jaguars soaked up tremendous pressure in defence where Beresford took up the left back position. In the 84th minute the Jaguars produced a rare attack but a beautiful one-two combination on the right between second-half substitutes London and Mills ended in a right-booter from Mills at an acute angle from inside the area that was no problem for Blake.With the minutes ticking away and the Jaguars holding out, an upset seemed in the making, but the Reggae Boyz were determined to level the score.Two minutes from full-time Dicoy Williams, from deep out on the right, looked up and saw that Lyle was way off his line and as though he had measured the distance with a tape, instinctively and calculatedly the Arnette Gardens forward clipped the ball into the far corner of the net, to dash all hopes of a Jaguars win.Burke had a clear-cut opportunity to seal the win in regulation time for Jamaica but his unchallenged effort with his head from inside the box went over the bar seconds from full-time.The late equaliser took the wind out of the Jaguars, though they battled on bravely with goalkeeper Lyle making two point-blank saves in succession in the 2nd half of extra time.The mental and physical fatigue of the Jaguars finally opened the way for the visitors, as Francis atoned for his penalty miss when he ran on to a nod by Burke in the box to beat the advancing Lyle in the 116th minute.Burke made the final breach of Lyle’s citadel on the stroke of full time. He stole the ball from Butters just outside the area and rifled a left-booter past Lyle at the near post for a final 4-2 victory.The win puts the defending champions at the top of Group One, with a decisive game against Suriname in Jamaica for a place in next year’s semi-finals of the CFU-Scotiabank Championship and another spot in CONCACAF’s GOLD Cup.For the Jaguars, it is the end of their campaign.