An evening with Caballo Blanco - a vibrant memory - and an appeal

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Caballo Blanco (real name Micah True) is the runner I wanted to talk about in today's post.
But before I start telling you about what Caballo taught me let me start by saying that in the last few weeks I was contemplating the ideal diet for runners. I learned about the Maffetone method of running within one's maximum aerobic heart rate and along with it about the paleo diet. I also learned about teaching our body to burn fat rather than sugar through slower running and how this helps people who run endurance races. At about the same time a couple of friends on Spark and I started a study about the book"What the Bible says about Healthy Living". This book talks about three principles of eating: eating things that were created by God as food, eating things the way God made them (natural), and not becoming addicted to any food (not making any food our God).
As part of this study I read a little more about obsession with food and addiction to food and looked at some videos of people who are struggling with severe food addictions and diseases that come from extreme obesity. It became clear to me that it is a long road going from eating enough to meet our physical needs to the point of obsession and addiction to "special", "gourmet" or "fancy" foods. It occurred to me that very few people's food obsessions and addictions involve whole grains, beans and vegetables.
These foods are natural, simple and not addictive.
And that is when I remembered the talk we listened to this past May in a small University town in Idaho that stands out for its very alternative culture, at least by Idaho standards. Caballo Blanco, is an ultra-marathon runner who has chosen to live with the Tarahumara Indians who call themselves the Raramuri and live in the Copper Canyon of Mexico.
It was Christopher Mc Dougall's book "Born to Run" that made all this well-known to many thousands of people. The book came out in 2009, has been a bestseller and is known for popularizing minimalist and barefoot running as well exposing many people to the sport of ultra-marathon running.
Caballo's talk was advertised as a talk about the Raramuri Indians and was given at a small venue that had room for no more than 30 people. Like some of the other listeners we came to find out how the real Caballo Blanco compared to the person described in Christopher Mc Dougall's book and we were also hoping to learn something about running, from the horse's mouth, so to speak.
We were not disappointed. Caballo turned out to be a very nice humble guy who was clearly passionate about the people he was hoping to support through his speaking tour in the US. We saw many slides and heard stories about their living conditions and about running.
We had the chance to ask questions and the question of shoes came up. Caballo was wearing a pair of minimalist running shoes of one of the better known brands and when asked if he liked them his answer was: Yes, I like them, because I got them for free, followed by a big grin. This was followed by an explanation that minimalist running is not a philosophy among the Tarahumara Indians but a necessity. Cut-up car tires and strings make durable inexpensive shoes for them called huaraches. Like flip-flops, they are worn without socks and therefore the closest to what could be called barefoot shoes (which is really a contradiction in terms but that's another story). We also learned that the Tarahumara don't usually run barefoot because they live on sharp rocks.
When someone asked about the diet of these running people that will frequently cover more than a marathon in a day on very steep terrain, the answer was "Mostly beans and corn tortillas and some beer and tea". I couldn't help myself but ask "And some vegetables?" to which the answer was "Not very much." At some point in the evening Caballo had something to eat and the portion was a smallish dinner by most American standards, maybe 600-700 calories. I don't know what I was expecting a very lean and muscular ultra-marathon runner to eat but a lot more than that.
Earlier tonight I decided to refresh my memory about Micah True, the runner to make sure that I remembered some of the basics about him correctly. The first thing that I saw was that there was a Facebook page that I had not known about. I clicked on it and found something unexpected. The Raramuri are going through a very difficult time at this moment in history because of a severe drought. The food shortage is so severe that people are dying.
This struck me since I had just read about people dying from food addictions. So this blog is taking a very different turn now. I was planning to share about the values of simplicity in all areas of life, ranging from eating to exercise equipment, and the blessings that come with that. A focus on what matters, joy of living in the present, less stress etc. and all that is true. But I feel compelled to go beyond that and pass on this desperate need for food (corn) of one people group to another people group, all of you on Spark, one that in most cases is far closer to death from having too much. I've never written this kind of appeal so hope nobody will be offended, but I want to ask if you would take a look at the links I'm providing and decide if you can help, through your gift, through your prayers or through a message of some sort, or simply by passing on this message to people you know.
The first link is for the Facebook page of the Copper Canyon Ultra marathon which has many links and videos posted, the second one for an organization set up to support the Raramuri.



Thanks for reading,
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    My guess is that the Tarahumara eat what they eat because they are *poor*. These are the cheapest foods that can feed the most people. That doesn't make those foods healthy. They live in a very small area that provides limited food choices.

    I'll definitely look into helping them!
    3292 days ago
    Wow, talk about food for thought...thanks Birgit.
    3292 days ago
    Great recommendation on your part. I wish them success in managing this drought.
    3294 days ago
    Thanks for the links. As usual, you've provided more food for thought...

    "Obsession and addictions to special, gourmet or fancy foods" versus what's needed to nourish ones body.

    The styles of restaurant dinning I've seen fade in and out of vogue have changed over the last several decades. Perhaps with the economy, perhaps with our health needs, perhaps as just another fad - but I've seen the styles shift from very complex/complicated dishes (creams, butters, and complicated cooking techniques), to haute cuisine (a shrimp, scallop, baby carrot and three peas - enjoy your dinner), to a return to comfort foods (meatloaf with mashed potatoes with gravy, short ribs and pot pies), and now farm to table....

    It's interesting to note that some of the best chefs in the world today try to find the freshest ingredients and do as little as possible to let the ingredients speak.

    Hmm - just as minimalist running has arrived (again), has the minimalist approach finally arrived (or returned) to the dining room as well? Minimalist cooking...?
    3294 days ago
  • no profile photo CD10259955
    Sometimes it's hard to believe that there are people in the world that don't have enough to survive - even in this wonderful country we live in. Thank you for sharing this story - I will not only check out the links but also the books you mentioned. All very interesting. Others on this site have posted about the Paleo diet, and I did look into it briefly (but at the time, my BHf was not interested in eating healthier! Now that he is, I think I will give it another look!
    3294 days ago
  • 60SIXTY
    I like the term "food obsession."
    When I am not eating the type of food I should, I believe an obsessive compulsion is involved.
    3294 days ago
    I read Born to Run just a couple of weeks ago and it impressed me, in several aspects.
    Thanks for sharing, I'll check the websites!
    Good for you that you had the opportunity to meet him in person.
    3294 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/21/2012 5:23:55 AM
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