By Gregory Crofton
Almost overnight the book “Born to Run” unveiled to the world a community of natural long-distance runners from the canyons of Tarahumara, Mexico.
The Rarámuri could tolerate hours of running on rough trails wearing sandals made out of leather straps and old car tires. This indigenous culture somehow produced runners that were machines.
Was the Western world’s approach to endurance sports all wrong? Do the latest running shoes hurt rather than help?
Christopher McDougall’s book “Born to Run” explores issues like these by documenting the 2006 ‘Ultra Caballo Blanco’ — a race in which some of the top “white” runners from the U.S. competed side-by-side with the Rarámuri in a 50-mile marathon that starts in the small town of Urique, Chihuahua, México.
Running has always an integral part of life for the Rarámuri. They race for miles — children, women, men — for fun and from a young age. Doing so is part of their culture and life in the mountains. Historically the Rarámuri have had to live life on the “run” because their ways are under some type of socioeconomic threat.
ESPN’s latest edition of “30 for 30” — “The Infinite Race” a documentary directed by Bernardo Ruiz — examines the impact of the Ultra Caballo Blanco, and looks at what happens when two very different cultures work together but also clash.
“The Infinite Race” looks at one year in particular, 2015, when gunfire related to drug trafficking nearly put a stop to the marathon.
“‘The Infinite Race” is about … the starkly different ways people can view events based on the economic, political and cultural realities they inhabit,” said Ruiz in a press release. “What interests me is that space where white American athletes and Rarámuri athletes negotiate power.”
This latest edition to ESPN’s “30 for 30,” which premiered on Dec. 15th, meets the high quality standard of the sports series. Ruiz weaves multiple strands (global warming, hunger, narco terror) into one coherent and powerful story about an indigenous people who run for life, who run to protect and preserve their valuable culture.
Ruiz’s previous directing credits include: “Latino Vote: Dispatches from The Battleground” (PBS, 2020), “Harvest Season” (Independent Lens, 2019), “Kingdom of Shadows “(Participant Media, 2015) and “Reportero“ (POV, 2013).
Ruiz also worked with documentary producer Alex Gibney in 2019 when he directed a 5-episode mini series, “USA v. Chapo: The Drug War Goes on Trial,” which premiered on Facebook Watch. Below find a trailer for “The Infinite Race.”