The Art & History of Trail Running – Inca Chasquis

What is trail running? This sport is one of the most minimalist outdoor sport endeavors one can do. All you really need is a pair of good trail shoes and some running clothes (unless your all about the nude which could give some innocent hikers a bit of a scare).

To start out trail running, do exactly what the name says. Get on a trail and start running. Once you begin you will soon realize that this sport is much more than just running on a trail.

Our drive to run comes from a primeval instinct that is hard wired into our genetics. Picture your distant ancestors running through the forest in chase of their food, leaping over fallen logs and splashing through mossy creek beds. Or maybe they were the prey and survival and adrenaline was the driving force that forced them to push their heart rate and body to near collapse.

Sometimes when the stress of our modern world and fast-paced life build up, we need to explode in a rush of adrenaline that trail running can give.

History of Trail Running – The Inca Chasquis

chasquiWhether you run for competition, to get in shape, or just for enjoyment you are taking part in a long history of trail running.

One of the more famous historical trail runners were the Inca Chasquis Messengers. Place yourself in the year 1500 AD . The Inca Trail in Peru is a stone trail that took many years to build. It connects remote Inca communities in the Sacred Valley and even leads to the highly spiritual citadel of Machu  Picchu.

As you climb high into the cloud enveloped mountains, agile and strong men begin running past you at amazing speeds. They jump over fallen logs and climb the wet stones without ever missing a step. These are the highly trained and respected Chasquis messengers of the ancient Inca Empire.

Working in a relay system, runners would sprint from one point to another where they would be met by another messenger, who would continue the messages to the next relay point, and so on and so forth till it reached its destination. Messages could travel up to 240 km per day.

They carried two items on their body. One was the quipu, which was a system of knotted strings that could hold messages based on the kind of knot, number of strings, color, etc. In addition, they carried a  pututu, or a conch shell that was used as a trumpet to signal fellow relay runners that they were approaching. Today, many descendants of the Inca still use the conch shells as instruments.


Recommended Gear – 

Trail running requires exerting the body on tough terrain. Sprained ankles, torn ligaments, and even possible deaths from falls are all risks that come with the sport. Here at South American Outdoors we have listed running shoes from Altra Running that are durable, comfortable, and made particularly for the unpredictable landscapes and trails.