Many years ago, my English professor used the attached Garfield comic to illustrate the beauty of ignorance as it pertains to exceeding limitations. In other words, Odie was unaware that he wasn’t supposed to succeed, because no one told him that he couldn’t. From time to time, I think about Odie’s tree climbing ability when I encounter a success story made possible by rejecting conventional wisdom.
I was reminded of the comic once again after recently reading Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run.” In the book, McDougall captures the spirit of the Tarahumara Tribe and their supernatural ability as runners while living a Spartan existence in the remote canyons of Mexico. The book highlights the Zen of running and the fuel that propels the Tarahumaran engines. That fuel being a perfect blend of caring, sharing, and joy.
McDougall discovered the Tarahumara are a people capable of tremendous athletic feats. Tribe members are credited with running more than 400 miles without stopping. Routinely, they log 50-mile runs, which include elevation changes of over 6,000 feet – just for fun. http://bit.ly/cZ4fco. For the Tarahumara running is a way of life. It connects them socially. The entire tribe takes part in “fun runs” and children grow up playing running games that develop their bare-foot running style and endurance.
They live and thrive in the harsh environment and rugged terrain of the Copper Canyons and their isolation is deliberate. The Tarahumara shun the outside world for all of its vices. They had grown tired of the trappings of society and secluded themselves in the canyons. Their universe centers on caring and sharing for one another. If someone needs food, they empty their cupboards to feed them. If someone needs shelter, they offer their home. If someone needs clothing, they give them the shirts off their backs. It’s communal living at its finest. A genuine level of care and compassion pervades Tarahumaran culture. Running is the instrument that releases frustration and keeps life in balance.
While making one of their few appearances in the United States, several Tarahumara tribesman ran the Leadville 100 in 1994. All five Tarahumara runners finished in the top seven (including 1st and 2nd place) and ran the entire way in robes and sandals…smiling. The Tarahumara have an absolute joy for running. It’s an extension of their soul and spirit. It allows them to be who they are. They are unspoiled by the words can’t or won’t. They are a kind and peaceful people with an athletic gift never seen before.
Some say the Tarahumara have obtained the ultimate “runner’s high.” I think they have, and they possibly don’t even know it.