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The 100-mile Western States ultramarathon offered four Tarahumara Indians an opportunity to honor ancestors who, centuries ago on Mexico’s Sierra Madre plateaus, reputedly ran 170-mile races between villages, and hunted deer simply by running them to death. But the June race posed troubles their ancestors surely never imagined: Snow in the Lake Tahoe, Calif., mountains forced them to adopt running shoes instead of their huaraches, handmade from tire treads (below); and they feared passing one star U.S. runner, thinking she might be a witch. Still, three of the Tarahumara placed in the top 12, in a field of 400. Their reward? U.S. couple Rick Fisher and Kitty Williams Fisher collect sponsorship money to cover expenses, but nothing more. While the Indians say they’re happy just to compete, back in their impoverished home, a 73-year-old elder muses: “Someone makes money. A shoe company, a car company, someone.”

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