Eric Haas


Minimalist Running, Persistence
Hunting, and the Meaning of Life

-Eric Haas has created the Persistence Race, a 7-day adventure where you could learn ancient survival skills, immerse yourself in the local culture, and run 150km along with the hunters of the Kalahari. The first edition, with the support of LUNA, will be in September of 2024: more info below



Running, for me, is about simplicity. It’s about removing the unnecessary barriers between myself and the world; tapping into something truer, deeper, somehow more human. I don’t need grand theories or expert advice; I don’t need fancy gear, or infrastructure, or permission from anyone else. Just get out and go: move, breathe, be. That’s all there is to it.

Words here are a poor approximation, and if you don’t already know, the best thing to do is get out there and try it for yourself. But here we are, writing and reading, me at my screen and you at yours, so maybe I can at least gesture toward the feeling — maybe I can give you a little pang of curiosity — by saying that barefoot running can be a form of connection to our most essential, a sort of primal rite that reveals what it means to be a human animal alive in the world.



It doesn’t have to do with speed or numbers or rankings; it’s about the experience itself. The sensation of the ground, the rhythm of the breath, the engagement of muscles in natural alignment…each step is a decision, a calculation made too quickly to be rational; the mind delves into a flow state where sensation is more vivid, the self less constrained.


I don’t think I’m the only one to experience running as a metaphor for living life, a training ground for finding purpose and seeking balance; it’s a dance between strength and surrender, focus and flow, human and nature.

I’m a bit of a purist, if you hadn’t already guessed; some might call me a hard-headed zealot, or something far worse. The point is, I’m often slow to pick up on the nuances of life. Which is why I only began using running sandals recently, when I wanted to increase distances and explore new kinds of terrain. What I lose in sensation I find that I can gain in freedom, and that’s a tradeoff I’m often willing to make.

For as long as I can remember, though, this push toward the pure unadorned essence of things has left a single image burned in my mind: a small group of runners, dark skin and close-cropped hair; lithe bodies in animal skins, spears in hand. They are following the tracks of an antelope through the dry sands of the Kalahari, the bright sun overhead in a clear blue sky. This is running in its purest form. Humanity at its most essential. This is where we come from, and who I think — I feel, I know — we most truly are.



Persistence hunting, to my mind, is at the apex of human accomplishments: a unique union of physical prowess and mental acuity, individual capacity and collective effort. Hundreds of generations of careful observation and cumulative understanding are condensed in a single instant, channelled through raw instinct and altered states of consciousness in which the hunter merges his soul with that of the hunted.


The kill is made. With reverence, with humility, with love, the life of an animal is transformed into the life of many humans. The hunter, his family, and his tribe live on to see another day.*
It’s hard to believe that we as a species are capable of running down hoofed ungulates until exhaustion, chasing them for hours through the hot sun until they simply give up trying. But it’s true, and if it weren’t, our species would most likely long since have ceased to exist.


Our ability to run long distances, made possible by the development of achilles tendons and a powerful gluteus maximus, sweat glands, and pulmonary systems that can operate independently from our stride, means that our meek species was able to outcompete other predators, capture more food, grow bigger brains, and eventually evolve into the homo sapiens that we are today.


Consensus among academics and other experts is that persistence hunting is a lost art, long since obscured in the mists of time. Fortunately for those of us alive today, however, the consensus is wrong. There are still a handful of humans living in the Kalahari who practice persistence hunting as a way of life. I’ve run with them. I’ve hunted with them.** And now I’m working with them, to help keep their traditions alive.

I spent years researching and traveling, trudging abandoned paths and seeking unmarked villages; eventually I found what almost certainly are the last living humans to feed themselves and their families in the same way our ancestors have done for hundreds of thousands of years. These are the last remaining persistence hunters of the Kalahari.

Allow me a few sentences to try to dig a bit deeper, to get more clearly to the essence of the matter. Indulge me, or skip on down to the links below. Your choice

IMG_0580.jpeg__PID:4ab852a2-beaf-4555-9308-10f556cd1ba7IMG_0924 3.JPG__PID:e549d34b-f2e9-4a9f-8379-a4f0c0d75c06


The origin of life, as far as we know, is a combination of disparate forces brought together into a unified whole; perhaps deep in the thermal vents of our primitive planet, matter somehow became capable of sustaining itself, reproducing itself, endowed with a force we now call life, in unicellular form. Over the course of hundreds of millions of years, these unicellular organisms proliferated and specialized, and then began to join themselves with others, eventually creating multicellular beings.

Away we went, specializing functions and combing forces, adding on layers of perception, cognition, and motor activity, slowly developing complex organs and entire systems of internal communication that are now so beautifully expressed in we know as the human body. Evolutionary biology tells us quite clearly that we are inherently multiple, that the individual is legion: in the words of Dr. Michael Levin, we humans are best understood as metazoan swarms, entities composed of many distinct levels of cognition all operating semi-independently within this mess we call the “self.”

This is just another way of pointing out what most indigenous cultures and spiritual traditions, as far as I can tell, consider to be a fundamental truth: life at its core is about connection. It’s about connection internally, with our own minds and bodies, but also with each other, with the environment in which we live, and if you’ll indulge me a bit more, also to the unfolding moment: to the here and now. Everything else is a fantasy, a semi-controlled hallucination produced by our so-called rational mind, the prefrontal cortex which neuroscience seems to be revealing as little more than an accomplished story-teller, a self-perpetuating prediction machine that filters out the unexpected, convincing us that we’ve seen what we expected to see, and that it -- the prefrontal cortex — is in control of a reality that is in fact far more nuanced and complex, and far less rational than we’d like to believe.

Which is just to say that the motto of our era for the past 400 years or so — “I think therefore I am” — is utterly wrong. “I think therefore I think I am” is closer to the truth, and opens the door to another perhaps more vital truth: “I feel therefore I feel that I am.” The main difference here is that feeling is never self-contained; there is no egotistical pretension of domination that could spur something like, say, the colonization of 90% of the globe by the other 10%, or the industrial revolution that colonized 90% of of our minds with the 10% we like to call our intellect. But I digress. Let me just say that feeling, by definition, doesn’t occur in a vacuum; feeling is about engagement, connection, relationship. And that, I would argue, is far closer to getting at the essence of what it means to be human than rational thought ever could be.

It is, at the very least, far closer to the essence of persistence hunting.


One aspect of the story that is often missed, is that persistence hunting is not just a physical feat. It requires encyclopedic knowledge of local flora and fauna; you have to be able to identify the tracks of a single animal amongst dozens of the same species in the same herd, and follow it unfailingly for hours while running at a steady pace, avoiding the lions and elephants and all manner of thorns as you go.

And maybe it’s obvious, but this is not something to be done alone. A small group of 4-8 hunters is ideal. We spread out through the bush in tight formation, scanning constantly for new signs as they appear and disappear in the loose sands and trampled earth. Communication is quick, precise, and just barely audible above the rustle of the grass in the wind.

So it’s a physical accomplishment, but also cognitive and communal, but maybe above all it’s a spiritual one. That’s a loaded word, I know. What does it even mean? For our purposes here, a spiritual experience is the experience of leaving the boundaries of your own mind and body, or expanding them, enough to include other beings. Now I don’t want to make any claims about objective reality or what’s “really” happening. I just want to pass along the explanation that the hunters give, and what I’ve felt personally:

There are many times during the hunt when you have to be able to leave the confines of your own experience and merge with the animal you are chasing, with the hunters who are no longer in sight. Sometimes the tracks disappear; sometimes you find yourself lost or disoriented; there is no logical process to determine which path to take.

When logic can no longer serve, that is when the spiritual begins. If this term makes you nervous you can imagine some kind of pheromonal sensitivity, or invent any other biological explanation that you want. What’s important for me, and for anyone focused on eating that day, isn’t the how but the what: an immersion into the essence of another being that provides the knowledge necessary to continue on the right path.

The proof is in the fact that the game is eventually captured; that our species eventually survived.

The effort and skill required for persistence hunting foster a deep respect for the animal being pursued. It's a process that doesn't allow for disconnection or abstract philosophizing; the hunter is acutely aware of the life they are taking, and the kill is made with a degree of both gratitude and reverence that can only come from pushing yourself close to the extreme limits of your ability. It is a reminder of who we are, and where we stand in the world.

It seems fair to say that nowadays we as a species are in sore need of a reminder of our place in the world. Our technological prowess once again seems in grave danger of getting the best of us. I don’t want to get into political debates here; if you don’t agree with me, that’s fine.



I’ll just say that if you’re looking to explore yourself more deeply, looking to connect with the most essential aspects of being human, looking to make a small positive change in this world, I have something to offer you.

We’ve created a small platform for people who want to train the full scope of abilities necessary for persistence hunting, everything from strength and mobility to heat adaptation and metabolic flexibility, from CO2 tolerance to mental resilience. It’s a humble endeavor, growing slowly at the pace of those who join us:

Next, I’ve put my heart and soul and most of my savings into creating an NGO dedicated to revitalizing the ancient traditions of the Kalahari, working with and supporting the world’s last persistence hunters.

We created the Persistence Race, a 7-day adventure where we will learn ancient survival skills, immerse ourselves in the local culture, and run 150km along with the hunters of the Kalahari. The first edition, with the kind support of LUNA, will be in September of 2024:

If you’d rather join us for a private excursion, we also create unique adventures for small groups and dedicated individuals. Go to for more info.

Anyone interested in collaborating or supporting in some way, please get in touch with me at We’re building things carefully from the ground up, and we could always use a helping hand.


Screenshot 2024-02-21 at 10.40.06 AM.png__PID:de8814c1-8397-459c-b585-f5a34739eaf9


"All photos taken by Eric Haas from the non-profit Images are used with full consent of the subjects for the purpose of promoting the Persistence Race and associated activities to benefit the Ju/‘hoansi people."



Tour Guide