Saturday 31st of March 2012 will go down as one of the sad days in ultra-running. Losing one of it’s custodians, a man that embodied the free-spirited meaning of why we run, passed away while out running in the forests of New Mexico. Some would say it was a fitting end to the life of a person who spent so much time in the solitude of nature, running free and wild. Others would say it was a tragic loss, an empty void that only a man as bold, yet as understated, as Micah True (AKA Caballo Blanco) could fill.
Few knew of the “white horse” until his character was made public in the now infamous book Born To Run by Christopher MacDougall. For most average runners, it’s hard to completely understand the mind set of an ultra-runner, and more so that of an individual who devoted so much of the second half of his life to exploring the natural world, more often then not, on his own. He became rooted within a community that continue to exist in the remotness of the Sierra Madre, a population grounded by the true meaning of what it takes to lead simplified lives.
They are very real people facing very real problems and issues,
His ways became legendary, often disappearing for days as he ran between villages, connecting with the various friends in the Tarahumara communities he made along the way. He inspired many by his unassuming demeanour, a personality that will continue to ignite the spirit of many who aspire to personal fortitude through their own running. He made time to stop and speak to people, often spending a few days with them sharing his stories – a true free spirit.
Recently, a young South African film maker by the name of Andrew King travelled to the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon to begin work on a documentary he has embarked on about the true spirit of an ultra-runner. To have met Micah True for the first time, and to have been one of the last few people to have seen him alive, we asked him to share a few thoughts about his first, and now lasting, impressions of Caballo Blanco.
Micah True lived by a simple philosophy of caring, peace and honesty that is embodied in his well known motto of Run Free. This is a vision he spread everywhere he went by the person that he was, and the things that he did for the betterment of others.
I had read the literature about the famed mythical person of Caballo Blanco made popular but the Christopher McDougal book Born to Run and attracted to the parallels to the story I am hoping to tell in my as yet unnamed production about South African Ultra Runner and Underberg Horseman, Steve Black.
Steve flies largely under the radar, and has a similar calm and piece around him and at 57 years old is still driven to explore, learn and connect. He was also incidentally instrumental in getting me excited about endurance sports and the mental strengths involved. When I heard Steve was going to run the Copper Canyon Ultra I was astonished that this was common knowledge and negotiated there and then to document the next year of his life which besides Mexico involved running on various continents and ultimately culminating in the 100 mile Iditorun in Alaska this time next year. It was the story of humility, integrity and running for the joy of it in the purest sense that made our trip to the Copper Canyons the perfect fit. A simple email exchange with Micah including a concise summary of the story I was hoping to tell and a PayPal race entry donation that got me in the door. Micah also suggested that I join the Club Mas Loco Google forum which had discussions and information about the race. After submitting my request to the User forum and being accepted by the moderator, Micah himself, I was granted what I consider one of the greatest privileges of my life, as during his disappearance for 5 days and after his passing, I was given a front row seat to the support, tributes and outpourings of emotions from his closest friends and those around the world that shared his beliefs and vision. Many of the personal tributes talk about the complete genuineness of Micah True. There we certainly never any ulterior motives with him and everything he did was for the betterment of others, and I think that is something that this complex world we live in is crying out for.
Micah admired the Tarahumara Indians honest, caring and un-materialistic way of life and he believed that this attitude all stemmed from their simple their joy of running. This respect was quite clearly reciprocated by the Tarahumara for whom Micah had done so much. Although they could speak the same language, they very seldom spoke at length to each other, it was more in the way they carried themselves in each others company. Calm gestures, eye contact and subtle nobs that spoke of their deep gratitude. This attitude of respect was infectious and anyone that takes the time and (considerable) effort to travel to the Copper Canyon Ultra is immediately swept up in it. It is the common bond that links all of the outsiders or Mas Locos as dubbed by Caballo. Many of the heartfelt tributes on the User Group speak about the difference between legend and legacy. The iconic figure of Caballo Blanco will be told for many generations, a status which is deserved, but could just as well have been earned by various ways, by being notorious or similarly by having won a handful of medals and trophies. Legend, however is something entirely different to Legacy, and it is quite clear that Micah True has left behind a legacy that is positive, meaningful and lasting. And what greater privilege can there be than to leave behind such a legacy.
Through the few conversations and time spent running with Micah in the Siera Madre, as well has having been witness to the way he has inspired those around the world, my resolved to produce a meaningful documentary of the integrity and pure values shown by amazing people like Micah True and Steve Black is as strong as ever as I continue this journey.
A fitting quote from Micahs close friend Scott Lease. “Micah Ignited a bon fire and invited everyone to throw their wood on it, to join in the warmth and light…. We will continue this glow into the hearts of everyone that loves to run free….”