Born to Run
Long-distance running legend Joe Vigil followed a reclusive tribe of Mexican ultramarathoners into the Rocky Mountains hoping to find the secret of its success—and discovered a way of life.
Vigil's mission was clear. He had to trace the route from what we've become to what the Tarahumara have always been, and ﬁgure out where we got lost. Every action ﬂick depicts the destruction of civilization as some kind of crash-bang, a nuclear war or hurtling comet or a self-aware-cyborg uprising, but the true cataclysm may already be creeping up right under our eyes: Because of rampant obesity, one in three children born in the United States is at risk of diabetes—meaning we could be the ﬁrst generation of Americans to outlive our own children. Maybe the ancient Hindus were better crystal-ball gazers than Hollywood when they predicted the world would end not with a bang but with a big old yawn. Shiva the Destroyer would snuff us out by doing...nothing. Withdrawing his hot-blooded force from our bodies. Letting us become slugs.
Coach Vigil wasn't a maniac, though. He wasn't proposing we all run off to the canyons with the Tarahumara to live in caves and gnaw mice. But there had to be transferable skills, right? Basic Tarahumara principles which could survive and take root in American soil? Because, my God, imagine the payoff. What if you could run for decades and never get injured...and log hundreds of weekly miles and enjoy every one of them...and see your heart rate drop and your stress and anger fade while your energy soared? Imagine crime, cholesterol, and greed melting away as a nation of Running People ﬁnally rediscovered its stride. More than his Olympic runners, more than his triumphs and records, this could be Joe Vigil's legacy. He didn't have all the answers yet—but watching the Tarahumara whisk past in their wizard capes, he knew where he would ﬁnd them.
Christopher McDougall is a Pennsylvania-based freelance writer and author. E-mail him at email@example.com.