Netflix Doc Profiles The Daily Life Of Rarámuri Ultramarathon Runner Lorena Ramirez
Netflix released a short documentary that gives us an insight into the daily life of famous ultramarathon runner Lorena Ramirez, the indigenous woman who wins races wearing traditional dresses and huaraches. “Lorena, la de pies ligeros,” premiered on Netflix on last Nov. 20, and we can’t get enough of it. While we are used to admiring Lorena at the finish line, for the first time ever, we get to meet her family, and see what her life is like at home, deep in the Sierra Madre mountains. Lorena is arguably the most famous member of the Rarámuri, a Mexican indigenous group lauded for their incredible long-distance running abilities. Directed by Juan Carlos Rulfo, the 28-minute documentary is complete with panoramic views of the Sierra Madre mountains, interviews with Lorena and her relatives, and spots of Lorena competing in international races with a delicate song in the background in her own tongue, whispering about the light of fireflies.
For all the lights and photographs a race brings Lorena, her home life is like any other traditional Rarámuri.
The very word rarámuri means “light-footed,” and the Rarámuri have been calling themselves “light-footed” for centuries. The Rarámuri used to populate nearly all of Chihuahua, but many retreated to the high sierras and canyons once the Spanish invaded Mexico in the 16th century. Many were captured and used as slaves, but the Rarámuri fought back. The Spanish executed many leaders of the Rarámuri, but their resistance proved too much for the Spanish and their Jesuit missionaries, who abandoned their posts.
Today, Lorena lives with her family in the Sierra Madre, and continues to practice indigenous customs, many of which include a lot of walking. “We’re always walking,” Lorena says. “We walk to La Ciénaga in Norogachi for groceries. It’s like three or four hours walking slowly. I’ve never used public transport to go buy groceries.” All that walking has made her one of the most famous ultramarathoners in the world. An ultramarathon is any race that exceeds 26.2 miles.
Lorena’s father, an ultramarathoner, brought her to her first race.
According to her father, “One day, we realized our feet were good for running, and that we had this talent for running.” “The first time my father took me to Guachochi was to run a seven-mile race. I never thought I’d be a good runner, or that I’d win,” Lorena tells the documentary crew with a chuckle. “But yes, I won,” she says seriously.
“There’s no need for pressure,” her father says about her wins. “She doesn’t have to win every time. Sometimes it’s hard on the feet. It’s very painful.”
While some indigenous customs have made her an elite athlete, we learn that she’s tired of taking care of the animals.
“It was hard for me to go to school. It was a five-hour walk,” her brother says. “The girls were forced to stay home and take care of the animals.” As much as he wishes Lorena and his sisters could go to school, “it wasn’t possible.” So the family sends the boys to school, and the girls stay home to do domestic work. Now, when Lorena’s father asks her if she likes taking care of the goats, she says she’s usually so tired now, passing on the chore to her little sister, Juana.
Sometimes she runs with shorts, but she wears them under her skirt because, as she puts it, “I wouldn’t be Lorena without the skirt.”
Winning ultramarathons is a source of income for Lorena and her family. “I always push myself to make the goal,” she says in the documentary. “It’s no game. I say to myself ‘Nearly there. It’s not much longer to the finish line.'” As often as her father says she likes to run for fun, Lorena tells us that she takes the races seriously.
Running shoes just “don’t feel right” to Lorena.
Lorena prefers her huaraches, what else can she say? As she opens up boxes of brand new top-of-the-line running shoes, she says with a smile, “I don’t think I’ll use them. The people that wear these shoes are always running behind me.” That said, she admits that her huaraches caused her problems during an ultramarathon that was impacted by flash flooding and cold temperatures. After running through several feet of water to the finish line, she tells us that her huaraches stiffened up in the cold and were bothering her. She still won.
“I’ll keep running for as long as I can, for as long as I have the strength,” Lorena says.
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