Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Missoula runners remember "Caballo Blanco"

Posted By on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 4:43 PM

A couple of weeks ago, Dean McGovern, Kiefer Hahn, Kevin Twidwell and Rick Wishcamper went for a run, which they often do. But this run was dedicated to one of their friends and heros, Micah True, better known as Caballo Blanco. The nomadic ultra-marathoner, made famous by the best-selling book Born to Run, was found dead in New Mexico March 31. The quartet ran from the Wilma Theatre, where True gave a speech to a full house of running enthusiasts in October of 2010, and over the North Hills and into the Rattlesnake, one of the routes they ran with True during his visit. They talked about True’s influence on them and his simple message of “running free.”

Dean McGovern, center, running with Micah True, right, in Missoula in October 2010
  • Dean McGovern, center, running with Micah True, right, in Missoula in October 2010

When McGovern learned True had gone missing in the Gila National Forest, in southwestern New Mexico, in late March, he figured True would turn up. “My first thought,” he says, “was, ‘Oh, come on. He’s out for a run. Of course he’s not on a trail you can see. He’s out running.’ I do that all the time in the Rattlesnake—just get lost, lose track of time.”

But then a few days went by, and True was found dead, his legs still dangling in a creek, with his water bottle next to him and no obvious signs of trauma. He was 58. Autopsy results haven’t been released.

For years, True lived on and off with the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico’s Copper Canyons, one of the most remote wildernesses in North America. The tribe is known for its remarkable health and athletic endurance. They do without modern running shoes, instead running in sandals on the balls of their feet, their legs acting as shock absorbers. In 2006, True started the annual Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon, which author Christopher McDougall participated in and documented in Born to Run. McGovern, Hahn, Twidwell and Wishcamper ran the 51-mile Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon in 2011. McGovern calls it “the most epic adventure I’ve ever been on.”

True was “not that mythical, amazing superhero” as Born to Run portrayed him, McGovern says. “He’s just a guy. He had sharp elbows and sharp opinions, and he would throw his barbs just like anyone else. He had imperfections. But his simple message was profound and it moved a lot of people...literally.”

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