The running man

From Born to Run

by Christopher McDougall

The Rarámuri, or Tarahumara, are a Native American people from northwestern Mexico, renowned for their long-distance running ability. In their language the term rarámuri refers specifically to the men. This passage was read at Sir Christopher Chataway’s memorial service, held at St John’s Church on 19th March 2014, a brilliant celebration of a wonderful life. Chris was one of Britain’s most famous athletes. He held the world record for the 5,000 metres and paced Roger Bannister for the first 4-minute mile. Though running was his passion, he was so much more; a highly successful businessman, government minister and chair of the international development charity ActionAid to mention just a few. A great man and a good friend too.

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‘That was the real secret of the Tarahumara: they’d never forgotten what it felt like to love running. They remembered that running was mankind’s first fine art, our original act of inspired creation. Way before we were scratching pictures on caves or beating rhythms on hollow trees, we were perfecting the art of combining our breath, mind and muscles into fluid self-propulsion over wild terrain. And when our ancestors finally did make their first cave paintings, what were the first designs? A downward slash, lightning bolts through the bottom and middle – behold, The Running Man. Distance running was revered because it was indispensable; it was the way we survived and thrived and spread across the planet You ran to eat and to avoid being eaten: you ran to find a mate and impress her, and with her you ran off to start a new life together. You had to love running, or you wouldn’t live to love anything else. And like everything else we love – everything we sentimentally call our ‘passions’ and ‘desires’– it’s really an encoded ancestral necessity. We were born to run: We were born because we run. We’re all Running People, as the Tarahumara have always known.’

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