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Running: A Tarahumara Storm

Outside Magazine, November 1994

Running: A Tarahumara Storm
By Todd Balf (with Jim Hage)

Last August's leadville trail 100, the grueling ultra-marathon waged mostly above 10,000 feet, wasn't your typical media-free, footpath-less-traveled ultra. Scott Tinley was there, with microphone in hand, filming a CBS Sports special. Throngs of curiosity-seekers lined the mountain trail. And there were helicopters. "Every time I wanted to pee, a TV helicopter was on top of me," fumed Ann Trason, who was competing in the 100-mile race for the first time in four years and led most of the way. "Basically I ran as fast as I could to stay away from them." So why the circus? In a word, Tarahumara. Returning to Lead-ville after cleaning up there last year, the famous Indian runners of Mexico's Copper Canyon were on the spot to do it again. And they did--but just barely. During the race's middle stages, Trason was some 15 minutes ahead of Jim O'Brien's course record and looked untouchable. But with 13 miles left, Tarahumara Juan Herrera, having traded in the shoes provided to each runner in the field for the Tarahumara's trademark huarache sandals, passed the cramping Trason. Herrera, 25, breezed over the last five miles--over which the course climbs about 1,000 feet--and finished first in a record 17 hours, 30 minutes, and 42 seconds. A disappointed Trason came in second place, a half-hour back, but obliterated her own women's record by two and a half hours. Three Tarahumara runners rounded out the top five.

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