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Written by Paloma Quevedo on July 28, 2020

 

Not many people can say that they have won a race. Fewer can say that they have won a marathon. Nonetheless, those who are able to claim this accomplishment as their own, will most likely say that they were wearing some type of athletic shoe to help them win.

Imagine running in sandals.

Imagine being able to beat professionals being sponsored by high-end athletic brands wearing only huaraches. María Lorena Ramírez, a 22-year-old woman from Mexico's Tarahumara indigenous community, did just that. 

 

Maria Lorena Rodriguez

 

Ramirez’s Debut  


On April 29, 2017, this Tarahumara woman ran in the female category of the Ultra Trail Cerro Rojo in Puebla, in central Mexico, a 50km (31 miles) ultramarathon. She proudly crossed the finish line in her huaraches and traditional attire, defeating 500 other runners from 12 different countries. Maria Lorena Ramirez wore no professional gear worn by most professional runners today. She finished the race in seven hours and three minutes and was given 6,000 pesos.  However, this is not the only ultramarathon she has conquered while running in sandals. 


The Spain Invitational  


In June of 2018, Maria Lorena Ramirez became the first Tarahumara to compete in Spain’s Cajamar Tenerife Bluetrail ultramarathon. The 23 year old women placed third in the senior category (18- 39 years old) and fifth in the women’s category as she joined 2,400 other racers. In her traditional huaraches, Ramirez was able to run the second highest course race in the country, reaching 3,555 meters. No gadgets, like hydration vests, that professionals use were worn by this incredible tarahumara. Maria Lorena Ramirez participated alongside her sister, who came in 15 during the women’s race, and her brother, coming in as 22nd in the general race. All siblings proudly ran in sandals and their traditional attire. 



Why are Tarahumaras known for being excellent runners? 


Christopher McDougall, a marathon runner, wrote about the Tarahumara's ability to run extremely long distances in his book Born to Run. He wrote: 

  • Tarahumaras live in extremely- dispersed settlements in the Chihuahuan Sierra in northern Mexico. This separation forces them to run extensive distances to hunt, trade, or simply visit neighbouring villages. 
  • The Tarahumarans teach their young to pace themselves as they support themselves and run in groups.
  • Running is a fine art, forming part of religious ceremonies and traditional games or competitions in which everyone participates. 
  • Corn beer, high in carbohydrates, is consumed regularly and is used to stay hydrated. 
  • They run with perfectly handcrafted traditional sandals called huaraches. 


Maria Lorena Ramirez not only filled her people with pride but all of Mexico. She is an inspiration for anyone belonging to a minority group. Her skills proved to the whole world the talents belonging to the indigenous communities in Mexico and the durability of a great pair of huaraches



For more on Maria Lorena Ramirez.
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