While all the running literary buzz now surrounds Christopher McDougall’s fine book Born to Run, I thought I would go a bit old school and look at this out of print book that covers various threads of the Native American running story. It describes in part the Tarahumara running tradition that has been fascinating in recent years, but also covers some lesser known aspects of Native American running throughout history. It turns out that many tribes throughout North America have a long history of running messengers. In some cases, the relays would make modern communications blush! For instance, the Aztec capital knew of Cortes almost within hours of his arrival in the Yucatan. The Incan messengers were a veritable postal service, fueled at least in part by coca leaves! In the American Southwest, a unique moment in history used the power of long distance runners to produce the largest and most successful uprising against the Spanish in North America. The five hundred year anniversary of this event was commemorated by a group of Pueblo tribes in the early 1980’s with a reenactment of the terrain covered by running a multi day event that linked all the Pueblos involved in the original revolt.
While the writing and storytelling in certainly not as snappy or entertaingl as McDougall’s, it is an interesting read. Nabokov alternates between first hand accounts of the commemorative event with digressions into history. Sometimes this switching back and forth can be annoying, but then McDougall does essentially the same thing by narrating the Copper Canyon ultra with digressions into many different topics. Since it is out of print, the only way to get a copy is to browse used bookstores or use Amazon’s network. If it makes its way to you, its worth some bedtime reading.