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Don’t fight the trail. Take what it gives you

Caballo-Blanco

The long-distance runner Michael Randall Hickman, also known as Micah True, White Horse or Caballo Blanco, was a talismanic figure for ultra-runners until his recent death. He befriended an enigmatic tribe of super-athletes and inspired many to take up ultramarathons, writes friend and Born to Run author Christopher McDougall.

The mysterious thing about the disappearance last week of Micah True – better known as Caballo Blanco, the White Horse of the Sierra Madre mountains – was that for once, we knew where he was.

He wasn’t bushwhacking a secret new route through the Mexican outback because he heard a bandit was lying in wait for him on the old one.

He hadn’t set off at sunrise to run all day through Mexico’s Copper Canyons to visit the hidden homes of his friends, the reclusive Tarahumara Indians. He wasn’t clattering across the Mojave in an ancient pickup truck, hoping to earn a few more months of food as a vagabond furniture mover.

“Learn the fine art of running, Caballo told me, and you can change your life”

Instead, he filled a water bowl for his pup, told a friend he’d be back before lunch, jogged three miles down the road toward a nice, safe, American wilderness park in Gila, New Mexico – and vanished.

The news got out last Thursday. By first light on Friday, friends and fans of the Horse who’d driven all night to get there were lining up to join search and rescue teams. Among them were champion ultra-distance runners like Kyle Skaggs and Scott Jurek, the US 24-hour record holder. The actor Peter Sarsgaard would soon arrive.

I was 750 miles away when I found out, but so many people were speeding down from so many directions, it took only two calls and ten minutes to find a ride. I climbed in next to Luis Escobar, a photographer and race director I’d met when we’d last gone in search of the Horse six years ago.

I first heard about Caballo Blanco in 2005, when I was trying to learn the secrets of the Tarahumara, who call themselves the “Running People”. For centuries, fantastic tales of Tarahumara speed and endurance have drifted out of the Copper Canyons in northwestern Mexico, and on rare occasions, so have the Tarahumara.

“Don’t fight the trail. Take what it gives you,” he began. “Lesson two – think easy, light, smooth and fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t [care] how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go.

“When you’ve practised that so long that you forget you’re practising, you work on making it smooooooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one – you get those three, and you’ll be fast.”

Caballo’s dream was to let the rest of the world know there was ancient wisdom worth protecting down there in the canyons, and his method was to create a wild, multi-day running festival in the heart of Tarahumara territory.

Read the rest of this incredible story by Christopher McDougall:

Ron Cacioppe

Ron Cacioppe is the Managing Director of Integral Development and holds a BSc, an MBA and a PhD. He has taught in the Graduate School of Management at Macquarie University, Curtin University and the University of Western Australia.

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