Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Run! An Exhibition

It's not often that two of my favorite things, running and museums, go together. But thanks to the Penn Museum in Philadelphia, I can now get a double dose of geek-out in one place. On Saturday they opened a new exhibition, Run! Super-Athletes of the Sierra Madre.

The exhibition will coincede with the famous Penn Relays, the oldest and largest track and field competition in the United States. The event was first held in 1895 and now brings in more than 15,000 participants from high schools, colleges, and track clubs all over the country and the world each year.

While the average joe may not know anything about the people of the Sierra Madre, anyone who had read Born to Run knows exactly who I'm talking about. The people of the Sierra-Madre, or as we know them the Tarahumara or the Raramuri, live and breathe running. Running is not just a form of exercise, but something that is completely intertwined with their culture. The sandals they run in helped launch the barefoot running movement after Christopher McDougall described them in his now-famous book. As someone who is now a minimalist runner I can say that reading about the Raramuri and their experiences with barefoot running led me to try it out in the first place.

The exhibition itself inhabits a small hallway at the museum. The space is filled mostly with photographs of the Raramuri taken by Diana Molina, who has documented their culture through the lens for over ten years. The gallery is prefaced by a short video introduction to the culture of the Raramuri. The late Micah True (Caballo Blanco) makes an appearance and talks about moving to the Sierra Madre and starting the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon as a way to support and protect the Raramuri culture.

Lining the walls of the gallery are huge, colored photographs of Raramuri runners and some close ups of their shoes made from tire treads. In addition to the photographs there are a few cases filled with artifacts including a traditional runner's garment and the equipment used during the game of Rarajipari, in which participants pass a ball back and forth to one another over courses as far as 100 miles.

While the most notable characteristic about the Raramuri is their undying love of casually running ultra marathon distances, the exhibition goes beyond that, and reveals other parts of their culture. Visitors will learn about how the Raramuri celebrate their Semana Santa (Holy Week) around Easter with all sorts of festivities.

If you are in the Philadelphia area and have 30 minutes to spare this exhibition is definitely worth checking out. And, if you're feeling really gung-ho about the Raramuri, then come to the Museum next Wednesday, April 11th for a lecture by Born to Run's very own Christopher McDougall!

1 comment:

  1. wow- that looks really cool! (kind of out of my area, but looks amazing!)


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