Loud Thoughts

Conversations in Flight

Don’t you love reading a book in a public place where you are complemented on your choice of literature? It is quite reassuring because you not only picked the right book to judge by its cover but you also happened to choose something that stands out in the crowd as something worth reading.

Well what if that book is written about the very person you are sitting beside on a long plane ride home from Jamaica to Charlotte, North Carolina?

If you haven’t read my blogs, you must know that I am a runner and a proud finisher of my first half marathon on Sunday. Because of several factors preventing me from running before the race (Jamaica trip, plane rides and rest days), I chose a more stationary technique for motivation. This week I have been entertained by reading the new Runner’s World magazine and the a famous book among runners, Born to Run.

After getting settled beside a cozy window for the three-hour flight home, I pulled out the book to pick up where I left off, unaware of the first person point-of-view seated beside me.

If you haven’t read this book, you need to. Christopher McDougall, reminds readers of the fascination and fire inside runners. He takes you immediately into the depths of Mexico’s Copper Canyons, a deadly terrain isolated to the Tarahumara Indians. During his adventure into the wild lands, he discovers the hidden tribe’s secrets to running across the impossible terrain for hundreds of miles and the incredible feat of mind over body.

I continued reading about ultra runners and the daring 100 mile race in Leadville until I felt a tap on my shoulder.

“Do you like that book?” said the young man beside me. He was wearing a t-shirt from  Austin, Texas and was sitting beside another woman who appeared to be his wife.

Finally, someone shares my appreciation for the running community, I thought.

I responded by saying how fascinated I was by the tribe and how hopeful I was that the book might instill a little spark of motivation in me days before my race.

He agreed but quickly suggested that there much more untold truth behind the Tarahumara Indians and the reason this particular tribe runs fast.

He quickly introduced himself and clarified my understanding of the tribe’s motives and hardships.

Before I could ask how he knew so much about these “super athletes,” the Texas native told me he and his wife were descendants of the tribe’s runners in the book.

What? Did he mean to tell me that of all family roots, his were located in the depths of a nearly uninhabited canyon in Mexico?

Okay, book down. All ears.

He talked about the importance of survival for the tribe and the risks they take to find food and security. Running, he said, is not a leisurely activity or a culture with cool shoes and recognition. It is basically a means to an end or survival of the fittest. They run from wild game, drug cartels, and to find food and water before dark. The wildest thing of it all is their ability to do so without the comfort of running shoes. Okay so they might wear sandals but that is not different in my mind than the soles of my feet. He quietly bragged about his wife’s ability to run fast and her incredible drive to run long distance!

It was all true.

This conversation helped translate the mystery and disbelief in Born to Run, while making McDougall’s discoveries all the more believable.

I sat fixated on his personal connection to these people and was amazed by my coincidental seating assignment.

The plane landed early and I was reluctant to part ways with my new-found personal narrator.

After learning about the underlying truths behind the tribe, I have continued reading with a greater appreciation for their sacrifice and resilience.




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