The Tarahumara Backstory: Exploring the Running Culture of Micah True and María Lorena Ramírez

Aimee Coustier

The Tarahumara, also known as the Rarámuri, is an indigenous tribe who reside in the northern state of Chihuahua, Mexico. They are known for their incredible long-distance running abilities and have become the subject of much fascination and research in recent years. In this blog post, we will explore the Tarahumara backstory, the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, the life of Micah True “Caballo Blanco,” and the inspiring story of María Lorena Ramírez.

The Tarahumara have lived in the Copper Canyons of Chihuahua, Mexico for over 1,000 years and have managed to maintain their traditional way of life– despite significant outside influences. The Rarámuri are known for their simple and sustainable lifestyle, which includes farming, hunting, and gathering. They have also developed a unique culture that values community, spirituality, and physical activity. Running, in particular, plays a significant role in Tarahumara culture and is often used in religious ceremonies and as a means of transportation.

The Inspiring Story of María Lorena Ramírez 

One of the most inspiring stories to come out of the Tarahumara community in recent years is that of María Lorena Ramírez. Ramírez is a Tarahumara woman who gained international attention for her incredible running abilities. In 2017, Ramírez made headlines when she won the UltraTrail Cerro Rojo, a 50-kilometer (31-mile) race in Puebla, Mexico. What makes her victory even more impressive is that she completed the race in sandals made from recycled tire rubber. She completed the race in just seven hours and three minutes, beating out many highly trained runners. Her victory was especially noteworthy given that she had no formal training and had never run a race before. Ramírez's dedication to running has inspired many people around the world, and she has become a symbol of perseverance and determination.

Here at Earth Runners, we create sandals inspired by the traditional Tarahumara huarache. Our sandals are designed to be durable, lightweight, and adventure-friendly. Like traditional huaraches, Earth Runners sandals consist of a simple sole and single lace. As María Lorena Ramírez and the people of the Tarahumara have demonstrated, this time-tested minimalist design allows for natural foot movement and excels in outdoor running conditions. In fact, we have a large hand painted mural at our Rewild Be Free Facility honoring María and the legacy of the Tarahumara!

Micah True and True Messages

In his book Born to Run, Christopher McDougall explores the Tarahumara's long-distance running abilities and the secrets behind their success. He tells the story of how he stumbled upon a hidden tribe of superathletes while on a quest to discover the secrets of running. He encounters Caballo Blanco, an American ultrarunner who has made it his life's mission to live among the Tarahumara and learn from them. Caballo Blanco, whose real name was Micah True, became a central figure in the book and an inspiration to many.

Micah True was a legendary ultrarunner who dedicated his life to exploring the limits of human endurance. He was known for his rugged, nomadic lifestyle and his ability to run for days on end without rest. In 2003, he stumbled upon the Tarahumara while on a journey through the Copper Canyons of Mexico. He was immediately struck by their running abilities and their unique way of life. He decided to stay among them and learn as much as he could about their culture and their running secrets.

True became a beloved member of the Tarahumara community and was given the nickname Caballo Blanco, which translates to “White Horse.” He learned their language, participated in their religious ceremonies, and even ran in their traditional races. He also became an advocate for the Tarahumara and worked tirelessly to raise awareness about their plight. He believed that their way of life was under threat from outside influences and that their running culture was in danger of being lost forever.

Micah’s Legacy and True Messages 

In 2006, True organized a race in the Copper Canyons called the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon. The race was open to both Tarahumara and non-Tarahumara runners and was designed to showcase the Tarahumara's running abilities and raise awareness about their culture. The race became a huge success and attracted runners from all over the world. True continued to organize the race every year until his death in 2012.


However, that wasn’t the end of the Copper Canyons races. True's legacy lives on through the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon which is now carried on by the non-profit True Messages, an organization focused on honoring the running heritage that remains so important to the Rarámuri culture. All donations to True Messages go to projects focused on honoring the Raramuri peoples and the children of the Sierra Tarahumara. This group of dedicated individuals listens to the input of the local National community to determine where to allocate resources which includes sponsoring races, trail projects, and initiatives to support the youth of the community, and we at Earth Runners are proud to donate a portion of all sales to True Messages!

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