General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 24 Sep 2017/13 Flint
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Indian Running
Indian Running
Classic survey of the history of American Indian running by Peter Nabokov
Three Mexican runners about to take part in the 1999 London Marathon

Meals on sandals ...

The last Aztec emperor Moctezuma II reputedly enjoyed a selection of some 200 dishes for dinner - including fresh fish brought hot foot by a series of professional relay runners every day from the Atlantic coast, some 250 miles from the Aztec capital! (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Run For It! team, London Marathon 1999
Run For It! team, London Marathon 1999 (Click on image to enlarge)

[When Moctezuma dined, according to Cortés himself, ‘300 or 400 boys brought dishes "without number", of every kind of food - meat, fish, fruit, vegetables - and because the climate was cold, braziers kept the platters warm. All the food was placed in a great room, which was almost always filled, where the emperor ate seated on a "finely made, small leather cushion"’. (Info from ‘The Essential Codex Mendoza" by Frances F. Berdan and Patricia Rieff Anawalt, p.223)]

Moctezuma II in his palace (Codex Mendoza - original in the Bodleian Library, Oxford)
Moctezuma II in his palace (Codex Mendoza - original in the Bodleian Library, Oxford)

According to Manuel Aguilar-Moreno (‘Handbook to Life in the Aztec World’) Aztec messengers were stationed along main roads at two-league intervals (1 league = 2.6 miles), relaying messages at a rough rate of 4-5 leagues per hour, or 100 leagues per day. When you consider that English horseback couriers in the Middle Ages only averaged some 35 miles per day (Professor Robert Bartlett, ‘Inside the Medieval Mind’), the Mexican system was over 7 times as fast!

It comes as little surprise to read that Hernán Cortés himself wrote that within 24 hours of his landing near Veracruz in May 1519, runners had described to Moctezuma, 260 miles away, his ships, men, guns and horses...

Inca ‘Chasqui’ blowing his ‘pututu’ conch trumpet and carrying his ‘quipu’ knotted data string; Ian’s ‘El Chasqui’ car in Sussex
Inca ‘Chasqui’ blowing his ‘pututu’ conch trumpet and carrying his ‘quipu’ knotted data string; Ian’s ‘El Chasqui’ car in Sussex (Click on image to enlarge)

Peter Nabokov has shown (‘Indian Running’, 1980) that there were courier runner networks among most of the local American Indian cultures before the Spanish arrived - from the Hopi to the Incas - ALL capable of relaying messages at speeds of 150-200 miles per day. The most famous of these are the chasquis of the Inca empire. Back in the 1970s Ian named his trusty 1962 Mk IIIA Sunbeam Rapier ‘El Chasqui’! (Sadly, it caught fire and died on Feb 2nd 1983; Ian had huarache sandals made from the old tyres...)

Messengers describe the newly arrived Spanish to Moctezuma, Florentine Codex Book XII
Messengers describe the newly arrived Spanish to Moctezuma, Florentine Codex Book XII (Click on image to enlarge)

Little wonder that a Mexican, Dionicio Cerón, won the London Marathon 3 times running, in 1994, 1995 and 1996.

(Top right) Three Mexican runners before the start of the 1999 London Marathon (Lauro, Maria and Tino were part of our own unique and memorable Run For It! team of 12 runners that helped raise over £13,000 for development projects in Central America devastated by Hurricane Mitch).

For more information on the impressive history of long-distance (‘ultra’) running throughout the American continent before contact with Europe, follow the links below.

Photo sources
• Mexican runners/Run For It! team/’El Chasqui’ car - photos by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore
• Moctezuma II - image scanned from our own copy of the 1938 Cooper Clark facsimile edition of the Codex Mendoza
• Chasqui illustration - from Wikipedia
• Florentine Codex (original in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence): image scanned from our own copy of the Club Internacional del Libro 3-volume facsimile edition, Madrid, 1994.

Learn more about long-distance running among the Tarahumara people

Ultrarunning.com: chapter 1 - Native Americans
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