Running in Sandals

In recent times, running has grown to be an incredibly complex sport. Every article you read highlights the latest technical advancement or newest gadget meant to help you improve or reach your personal best. In the middle of this exponential scientific and marketing boom, however, there is a tribe of Mexican runners that has shown the greatness that lies in each and every athlete, regardless of the equipment they have access to.

Most of us would think that running in sandals and a traditional dress, instead of the pro runners and the performance clothing that most people use, would be limiting and uncomfortable. The Rarámuris tribe transcends this ideal though, and has risen to the Ultra-distance challenge. They come to ultra running races of 50km and 100km and beyond and not only compete, but also win these events, all the while wearing their traditional garb. The Mexican Rarámuris have become known as being the fastest of all the ultra-runners.

Davey Black athlete, Itzel Silva is training at our triathlon club Melbourne and hails from Mexico. She has been following the story of the Rarámuris tribe, and here she tells her story first hand of one of the most remarkable runners, Lorena Ramirez, and uncovers some of the secrets behind the mysterious and amazingly fast tribe.

“She has no special gear”, “She doesn’t use energy gels, neither expensive running shoes.” “They are naturally the best runners in Mexico”. Those are the phrases you’ll come across when talking about Lorena Ramírez.

Being born in an indigenous community in Guachochi, Chihuahua, Lorena has become one of the best long-distance runners in Mexico. The Rarámuris, the name of her community, are located amongst the gullies of the northwest mountains of Mexico. Those rough terrains are their usual landscape which they have to cross to get their daily supplies. It’s not unusual for them to walk six hours carrying their supplies on their backs and shepherding their farm animals.

Lorena ran her first 10 km race when she was 17 and at the age of 22, she had already completed 5 ultramarathons. She won first place in the Ultramarathon Golden Trail Cerro Rojo in Puebla when she was 22 years old. She beat 500 athletes from 12 different countries and went on to be the first Rarámuri woman to compete in a European ultramarathon.

In June 2021 a community funding was organized to help Lorena and her siblings raise enough funds to compete in a 35km at the Golden Trail Mountain race in Mineral del Chico, Hidalgo. Luckily, they raised more money than they expected, enough to cover all the expenses to be able to participate. As always, she was dressed in a skirt and a pair of sandals with recycled tire rubber soles, just as she feels more comfortable running.  Thanks to her commitment and discipline, this time she finished 13th and her sister finished in 4th place.

If you watch her closely, she has the tough countenance of someone who has been raised to work hard and look after the family stock. But that hasn’t been an obstacle to achieving her dreams of doing what she loves most: Running. She has mentioned her biggest goal is to participate in the 166km race in Mont Blanc. She is confident that she can win it adhering to her planned pace. Lorena and her siblings represent motivation, tenacity, and strength for everyone who knows their story. They are the role model for many athletes and will continue to be so for future generations to come.

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