A journalist’s adventures in a secluded Mexican community of the best endurance athletes in the world.
On an unrelated assignment, Men’s Health contributing editor McDougall (Girl Trouble: The True Saga of Superstar Gloria Trevi, Her Svengali, and the Secret Teenage Sex Cult that Stunned the World, 2004) uncovered the legend of the Tarahumara Indians, a tribe of astonishingly fit runners concealed deep within the Copper Canyons of Mexico. Determined to learn their secrets, McDougall braved uncharted territory and encounters with lethal drug-smugglers in search of Caballo Blanco, one of the only outsiders to befriend the bashful natives. The colorful Caballo recounts an enthralling story involving the arduous Leadville ultra marathon and Rick Fisher, a greedy, hotheaded opportunist who bribed the Tarahumara out of hiding to compete. The exploited tribesmen participated in the grueling event three times before they disappeared back to their villages for good. An inspired Caballo followed the Tarahumara back to Mexico, where he ran the local trails and lived peacefully in isolation. His dream was to draw the top American contenders to this remote locale to lock horns with the clan in the ultimate endurance exhibition, and he wanted McDougall’s help to make it happen. The author returned to the Copper Canyons with a handful of prominent distance champions, including Scott Jurek and Jenn Shelton, and the story culminates in a final 50-mile showdown. McDougall’s background as a magazine writer is readily apparent—his prose is light and airy, informative without being pretentious. Most passages are short and engaging with extra doses of drama and exclamatory phrases thrown in to great effect. McDougall wisely grounds the narrative in his own struggle to engage in the concluding race—he was frustrated with his tendency to get injured—and he offers insightful sidebars on a variety of topics, from the development of the modern running shoe to an evolutionary argument that humans are literally “born to run.”
A terrific ride, recommended for any athlete.