The Caballo Blanco 50 Mile Ultramarathon—made famous by Christopher McDougall’s bestselling book Born to Run—was cancelled yesterday due to drug-related violence in the area.

Hundreds of runners from around the world had traveled to the remote Copper Canyons of Mexico to run the race alongside the indigenous Tarahumara, who regularly run long distances wearing only primitive sandals. The evening before the race, officials announced the race would not be taking place.

Reports from runners and Mexican authorities indicate that a municipal police officer was kidnapped and two people were executed outside of Urique, a small town where the race is headquartered. Drug cartels have become increasingly violent in the canyons of Mexico. Shootings and drug-related gunfire plagued the town of Urique for several days in December, and already Mexico is reeling from the disappearance and presumed murder of 43 students by corrupt police in partnership with a drug mafia last September.

Most runners were evacuated, but approximately 100 runners decided to stay and run part of the race anyway on Sunday, covering between 18 and 25 miles. Several were attacked by bees during the run and had to be treated by medics.

Caballo Blanco – also known as Micah True – founded the race in 2003 to help celebrate the Tarahumara running culture. For years, the race has provided sacks of corn to every Tarahumara finisher and prize money to the top runners, who were often Tarahumara. Caballo Blanco died two years ago, but the race has lived on and continued to feed and benefit the Tarahumara. This weekend’s tragedy will ultimately mean empty bellies and more hunger for Tarahumara living in the canyons.

Read about Harlan’s experience with the Tarahumara in the March 2012 issue of Blue Ridge Outdoors