Simplicity, Freedom, and Service: The Legacy of Caballo Blanco

AJWs TaproomI first met Micah True in the Wrightwood Community Center a few minutes before the start of the Angeles Crest 100 Miler in 2003. He was there as a host to several Tarahumara who had traveled from Copper Canyon to run the race that year. Above all else, I recall a distinctive glint in his eye and a gentle calmness in his voice that I will never forget. Since that day, I had run into Caballo a few times at various events and, of course, I followed with interest his involvement with Born to Run and the ensuing publicity that it brought to our great sport. Through it all, I was consistently inspired by three essential aspects of his life that are, to me, fundamental characteristics of his essence.

First and foremost, Caballo Blanco lived and breathed the simple life. While certainly, as some have noted, he was a complex person, with his words and deeds he espoused simplicity. Breaking life down to its bare essentials seemed to come naturally to him and running, of course, provided a perfect metaphor for the simplicity of his being. Shorts, shoes, water bottle, perhaps a shirt and/or hat and Caballo Blanco was good to go. Often in solitude but occasionally in the company of many, Caballo Blanco’s runs were simple affairs which broke life down to easily digestible parts – parts that could be controlled, savored, and, ultimately, liberated.

“Run Free” was Caballo’s unofficial motto and in many ways it characterizes what is, for many, the true meaning of running. The freedom one finds out on the trail in the mountains, or in the forest, or in Caballo’s beloved desert is often a place where the problems of the world slip away and the mind, body, and spirit can be set free. Not only did Caballo speak and write about this liberating aspect of running, he truly lived it and I believe that every day he laced up his shoes (or sandals, or nothing:) ) and headed out for a run, he became a little more free.

Finally, as most of us know, for the better part of the past 20 years, Caballo devoted himself to a life of service. After spending time with the ancient Tarahumara in their ancestral homeland in the canyons of Mexico, Caballo became committed to supporting and sustaining this sacred tribe of running people in any way he could. I imagine that in the Tarahumara Caballo saw a group of people living the values of Simplicity and Freedom in ways that few other people in the world do. As he began to work to shape his vision of a better life for these extraordinary people he did exactly the same for the rest of us, too. That was, in the end, his greatest gift.

Bottoms up!

AJW Taproom’s Beer of the Week
Caldera IPAThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Ashland, OR. Caldera Brewing Company’s IPA is a simple IPA with a complex character. A light 6.1% ABV, it packs 92 IBU’s making it a great summer brew. It’s also, like Dale’s a couple weeks ago, served in cans, which makes it eminently portable (and drinkable) on your next outdoor adventure

Call for Comments (from Bryon)
What struck you most about El Caballo Blanco and what do you think his legacy is?

There are 16 comments

  1. Russell

    I hope someone takes over his roll in the Copper Canyons. Although he'll have some pretty big shoes (or sandals) to fill.

    Thanks AJW. Beautifully written.

    Bottoms up. Run Free.

  2. Andy

    Thanks Andy, for a well-crafted and much deserved homage to Caballo, whose life of simplicity and service touched many, from the canyons of Mexico to the far corners of the trail running world. Not sure what his legacy will be, but his life — like a long run through the canyons and mountains — seems to illustrate that if you have endurance and follow your heart good things will evolve. A raised Caldera to Caballo — Salud!

  3. Rob Digga

    Would have loved to met Caballo. In a way I feel like I did.

    Going to Ashland next week. I Went to the small University there in the early 2000's and was fond of Caldera Brewery then. You gave me an excuse to revisit.

  4. RunTramp

    I met Caballo last year when he hosted a talk here in Sweden. I had, of course, read BTR but despite that I really didnt know what to expect from Caballo in person. What hit me most about him was his genuine, unbridled love of running, the guy just lived it. His personality was quite infectious too and even the doubters were, I believe, left with an admiration for what Caballo was doing- he seemed to live life by his rules and that requires a stubborn personality but kudos to him- he done it with style. I felt a profound sense of loss for Caballo Blanco even though I didnt know him at all but we lost one of our trailblazers last week, we lost him while he was doing what he lived for but we lost him all the same. Our sport throws up these characters and we should encourage that. Life needs eccentrics and Caballo was certainly one of those. Long may he be remembered.

  5. John

    It's great to see so many positive articles about Caballo. As others have stated, even though many (including myself) didn't meet him personally we were still able to get a sense for who he was and what he was about through the stories told by others in the running community. One thing I will say, that dude LIVED. He didn't stay around for as long as any of us would've liked, but he packed more life into his 58 years than most people do in a few weeks. That is inspirational in and of itself.

    Oh and I just read a bit more about him meeting the Raramuri in 1993 and his story about an altercation between his truck and a cow had me cracking up.

  6. Brian

    Even though I never had the opportunity to run with Micah, he and I would run into each other on occasion at a local brewpub here in Boulder on occasion when he was up from Copper Canyon. Our talks always included various runs, simplicity of life, Tarahumara and then back to simplicity of life. A genuinely nice guy in a straw hat. I'll miss him.

  7. Mickfish

    There was something comforting about knowing he was out there living the way he did.

    What I would really like to see is someone compile a book of stories from those he touched. The proceeds could go to the cause he valued most. THat would be a fitting tribute.

    Great article.

  8. Bill

    Thank you for sharing your memories of Caballo and the three values that you found he embodied, Andy. I'm like many above, a runner who did not have the opportunity to know this fine man, but who seeks simplicity and freedom and service in running and in life. I think, on my next run, I'll see if I can't run just a little more simply, with just a bit more freedom, in remembrance of a runner who passed the last mile.

  9. AWM

    It's ironic that a man of such humility and who shunned attention will, in fact, leave a larger than life legacy, thanks to the help of Chris McDougall. The world of ultra- and minimalist running have been and will forever be impacted by Caballo. Like others, I have thought about him a lot the past week and grieved his death. And since reading BTR a couple years ago I carry his words with me on every run as the best trail running coaching advice I've ever heard: "If you have a choice between one step or two between rocks, take three."

  10. ReginaLion

    After reading BTR I knew he embodied the simplicity and freedom of what trail running should really be about. It's a big loss and his spirit will be missed.

    Run In Peace Caballo!!

  11. Peter Hudec

    I am sorry for sleeping under a rock and more sorry to hear of the passing of Caballo Blanco. From reading Chris mcDougalls BTR, the image of this humble and simplistic person really ignited the passion within.

    That one passion that we all share 'running'. You've touched so many. Rest In peace Micah, or more so 'run like the wind up' there in the afterlife.

  12. Mike Guilfoyle

    When I feel a little downbeat about going for a run I reflect on how CB made ' Run free' the driving force of his passion for life ….a legacy that will truly last…Micah RIP.. Mike …London UK

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