“I’ll give you the choice of the story about a guy falling out a tree, the Mexican pop-star sex cult, or the best way to catch a deer without a weapon,” began Chris McDougall—journalist and author of the 2009 best seller “Born to Run”—in a discussion with students on Thursday, September 20. The event, “Writing for PR,” was held at 3 p.m. in Boehm 145 for upperclassmen.
After grabbing the audience’s attention with short stories, McDougall focused the remainder of his speech on the basis of Born to Run. He discussed the Tarahumara people he encountered in Chihuahua, Mexico and the life and death of the Caballo Blanco, which were all factors that had inspired his book.
“It was while I was in Mexico on an assignment that I open up this magazine and see a picture of what looks like to me, a transvestite in a pair of sandals and a skirt,” said McDougall, “It was a Tarahumara Indian who had won a 100-mile race in the Rocky Mountains.”
McDougall stated the article had led him to research and locate the tribe, which began the unknowing process of Born to Run.
The Tarahumara group— which literally means “running people”— are individuals living in the Copper Canyons of Mexico. According to McDougall, the Tarahumara spend their time running 100-mile marathons because of their belief that all humans are made to be runners.
Nicknaming them a “dynasty of megatron runners,” McDougall details his experiences researching and living with the Tarahumara people who had been difficult to communicate with.
As a result, McDougall was referred to Caballo Blanco, Spanish for “white horse.” Caballo had been the only person outside the tribe who not only understood the Tarahumara, but also communicated with them.
Caballo Blanco also lived a reclusive life in the remote area of the canyons with his girlfriend and dog. According to McDougall, he wore a straw hat, bathrobe and huarache sandals (sandals the tribe used for running long distances).
After spending years running with the Tarahumara, Caballo created a goal to have a large group of people run in the Copper Canyons for 100 miles. However, with Caballo’s passing, his goal was never achieved.
“If we can transform Caballo’s message of running 30 yards, we could change the idea of running,” said McDougall.
At the end of the discussion, McDougall hosted a book-signing in the Boehm lobby at 4 p.m. and ended his visit at KU with a 5K Fun Run at 5 p.m. with students and staff. The run followed the KU cross-country course, beginning at the Grim Science Building and was continued on Saturday, Sept. 22 for KU Family Day.
McDougall is currently working on another book, but did not comment on its release date. For more information, students can visit McDougall’s website at http://www.chrismcdougall.com.
By Marianella Orlando