Rarámuri Return to Santa Fe

Juan Rico 1

Juan Rico Leon Martinez & Silvia Castillo Ramirez at the starting line – 2015 Santa Fe Thunder

Juan Rico is coming! Father, farmer, and elite ultradistance runner, Juan will once again lead the Rarámuri (aka Tarahumara) running and artistic cultural exchange delegation, which has been an integral part of Santa Fe Thunder and Global Running Culture’s “Global Footprints – Project Copper Canyon” for the past 5 years.

The Rarámuri have been known for their endurance since they avoided the Spanish by losing them in the 6,000’ deep Cañon de Cobre four centuries ago. Actually, Copper Canyon consists of 6 river canyons, each with their own character and 7,000 – 8,000 foot high lands in between. It is a vertical land with pine trees and winter snows on top and a desert with occasional incongruous tropical oases at the bottom.

Depending on the season, Rarámuri farmers run, mostly vertically, often substantial distances. With crops at multiple elevations, tending to business is a full time job. As in Kenya and other places renowned for their runners, the Rarámuri grow up running up and down. Not surprisingly, the favorite sport involves running – flinging a wooden ball with exposed toes around a cross country route several to many miles in length for a day or two – Rarahipa. Wagering is involved…

I had the good fortune to make 2 extensive trips to the bottom of Copper Canyon in the early ‘90s, and moreover to meet Alma Solis 5 years ago. Alma is a warm and knowledgeable person who “get’s things done!” When it comes to interactions between New Mexico and Chihuahua, Alma’s involvement is vital.

Juan Rico on the course

Juan Rico on the course

Working with the Sister Cities International as Albuquerque Chair and as a general liaison, Alma maintains close relations with leaders in northern New Mexico, Chihuahua, la Sierra Tarahumara and points in between. In 2013, it was one of the great thrills of my life to organize a week trip to Chihuahua and Copper Canyon with Alma, Abraham, 5 volunteers and 700 pounds of daypacks filled with school supplies donated by Billy Mills’ foundation Running Strong for American Indian Youth, sports equipment including 10 One World Futbols, and educational materials.


Silvia on the course

We made the most of our short time in Chihuahua. Alma involved us with a menudo breakfast for 200 Tarahumara university students at the University of Chihuahua celebrating opening of a new dormitory. The breakfast was held at the Arena Coliseo, where lucha libre takes place. After breakfast, there were wrestling exhibitions and Santa Fe Thunder Transportation Director Jeff “Pantera Azul” and me, “El Mosca del Norte”, wrestled and ultimately prevailed over two professional luchadores. Such is the power of Alma.

We spent the rest of the week at Margarita’s Pension in Creel. Much the same as 25 years ago when I was there last, only bigger and in the same state of on-going construction as I remembered, Margarita and Alma are compañeras. We carried out 2 days of programs in the village of Cusarare, including a race for every child we could find, soccer clinics, nutrition classes, and distribution of the items that we brought.

Alma has dedicated her life to helping people in need from her land, and Global Running Culture is proud to be a part of her whirlwind. During race weekend, you will have the opportunity to meet the Rarámuri ambassadors , run with them and purchase handmade items including baskets, bowls, the famous running huaraches clothing and other unique items. We are blessed by the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of communities where running is a vital part of the culture. By participating in Santa Fe Thunder, you empower our efforts while creating a unique and special gathering and race that you will not soon forget.

Smooth running,

Joseph Karnes
Race Director