Thanks for everything, Caballo
From Patrick Sweeney, who dropped everything to join the search for Caballo:
Micah True lived the dream: simply, fully
By Mike Sandrock, For the Camera
Wherever I went in town over the weekend, the talk was about “Caballo Blanco.” His disappearance while on a run in New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness Area. The four-day search for him. The sad discovery of his body Saturday evening.
While in line at Alfalfa’s, at the library, on runs, in the running stores and at the coffee shops, people asked about Micah, offering condolences and their personal takes on this larger-than-life runner, a man with a heart as large as his lungs, and, it turns out, many, many friends.
People I never would have imagined knew Micah have been telling me how they used to have beers with him at the Mountain Sun, espresso at the Trident or go on runs with him up Green Mountain.
Surely, there are few runners as beloved as Micah True, not just in Boulder, but around the nation. Dozens dropped what they were doing to rush down to Gila, N.M., to search for Micah when he did not return from a solo 12-mile run last Tuesday.
One of those was Scott Jurek, the U.S. 24-hour record holder who ran True’s Copper Canyon ultra race in Mexico; another was Christopher McDougall, whose best-selling “Born to Run” propelled Micah into international stardom.
For Jurek, McDougall and others, there was never a question of not going; that’s the kind of friendship Micah engendered. He was a man of the people, with a charisma born of being confident in himself and in what he was doing.
He was doing exactly what he wanted, not postponing life until his “ship came in.” He was living the dream right here and now, and that is appealing simply because it is so rare. It is a difficult approach to life, one that shuns the comfortable path for a life of perhaps greater depth and significance.
For many years, I thought of Micah as simply another of the many long-distance runners populating the foothills west of town. He lived up on Magnolia and had a moving business to support his nomadic running lifestyle. That was common back in the 1980s.
I had an inkling of True’s appeal one morning in the Camera sports department. Former sports writer Neill Woelk was working on one of his columns blasting the then-athletic director at the University of Colorado. You did not want to interrupt Woelk when he was on deadline, but as soon as Micah walked in, Woelk stopped typing and began chatting about True’s prizefighting career, including a fight Woelk covered in the early 1980s at the Boulder Theater. (“He made a few bucks on the undercard by decking some poor schmoe.”)
“The term ‘rugged individualist’ may have been coined to describe Micah,” Woelk said when I asked him about Micah when he first went missing. “He was a man with a big heart who was always, always ready to lend a hand — and he detests bullies. He has always lived life on his terms, but he’s never forced those terms on anyone else. An incredibly interesting, complex man who has lived very simply.
“We (Neill and his wife) both hope he is found and is safe.”
Of course, Micah was found, and he was not safe.
True is gone, and with him all the stories he wanted to write. “True Tales from the Horse’s Mouth,” he was going to call his book, seeing it as another way to help his Tarahumara friends in the Copper Canyon.
Last summer, True donated his time to the Molly Bowers defense fund, coming to help his good friend and fellow ultra runner Dan Bowers, whose daughter is fighting her conviction in the death of her baby son, Jason Midyette. Micah showed a film, spoke and answered questions in a poised, funny, self-deprecating way. I was amazed at what a good speaker he was.
Rarely have I been around someone who was so “present,” so content and happy with what he was doing and who he was. Micah was an excellent listener. He stayed and talked to everyone. My biggest impression from that evening was how many young people wanted his autograph; he was a cult hero. He was one of the original impecunious ultra runners who finally reached some success.
And then, all at once, it was gone. The fabric of Boulder’s running community has been torn.
What meaning can be found from Micah’s passing? Oh, there are the concrete steps we can take to protect ourselves. “Always run with a partner” ultra runner Henry Guzman advised.
On Monday morning, I took a solo run on one of the “secret” trails Micah showed me, on the backside of Flagstaff. I recalled how we ran past the Red Lion and up the dirt road, when, without a word, he veered off up a gully just past the stone bridge. In a flash, he was 50 meters above me, moving nimbly up the slope. We ran through cactus, over logs, into fields of mountain flowers.
“Not the easiest way to get to the top of Flagstaff,” I said when we hit the amphitheater.
Micah put his arm on my shoulder, and with a big grin, said, “That’s the point, my friend. That is exactly the point.”