Tuesday, April 3, 2012

R.I.P. Micah True

I was saddened to read this weekend of the passing of running legend Micah True, a somewhat reclusive man who was nevertheless made famous by Christopher McDougall's Born to Run, which I wrote about here way back in the day.
Up mountainsides, through deserts and the wildest of rugged terrain, there was little that could break the serenity or solitude of Micah True as he ran. Only, perhaps, the pounding beat of his heart or the rhythm of his feet as they hit the trail, mile after mile after mile. 
For True, running -- the pure act of traveling relentlessly long distances -- was a passion that needed no justification. To those who knew him well, it also brought forth an intense playfulness in the 58-year-old ultra-marathon runner. 
"When he was out on the trail running, it was like someone just rang the school bell and said, 'Recess.' It was utter playfulness," recalled Chris McDougall, a friend of True's and author of the nonfiction best-seller "Born to Run." 
True's body was discovered Saturday evening in a remote part of southern New Mexico's Gila Wilderness. The search began for him days earlier after he failed to return Tuesday from a 12-mile run... 
Barry Anderson, a manager at Runner's Den in Phoenix, said the sport would greatly miss True. 
"He was both an international running celebrity, and the first person to smile and shake your hand when you crossed the finish line behind him," Anderson wrote in a posting on Runner's Den Facebook page. "The fact that so many people from all over the country dropped everything and immediately went to his aid is testimony to the way he lived his life and the way he himself treated his friends." 
Many on Sunday described True in the most reverential and laudatory of terms, with "legendary" and "inspirational" chief among them... 
True was the race director of The Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon, a 50-plus mile extreme race that took place in Urique, Mexico. This year's race marked a record turnout with hundreds of runners, most of them local Tarahumara, or Raramuri, Indians who are known for their extreme running. The prize money and corn vouchers awarded to finishers were all aimed at helping the Tarahumara. 
True was featured in articles in running magazines and was a central character -- known by his nickname, "Caballo Blanco" -- in McDougall's "Born to Run."... 
Without True, McDougall said he's not sure whether the Copper Canyon race will be able to continue. The Tarahumara are extraordinarily reclusive and True was able to build a relationship with them based on trust and confidence, he said. 
"He is the only person, I think, in our lifetime who has done a great job of very respectfully bringing awareness of that tradition to the rest of the world and creating a race that is a celebration of who they are."... 
Mark Cosmas, owner of iRun in Phoenix, said True was all about living life and helping other people enjoy running. 
"He might not have been the fastest or the most talented, but the joy and the passion that he brought to the ultra-running community was just infectious," Cosmas said. 
Some found solace in the fact that True died doing what he loved most -- what he did most every day of his life. 
To grasp the importance of running to True and a glimpse of that playfulness all his friends talked about, look no further than the short greeting on his voice mail: "Chances are I'm either running up a mountain, or I'm drinking a cerveza ..."
I'm usually not so good with the eulogies (those who know me best probably know me as an emotionless clod), but for True I'll give it my best shot, even though I never met the man. If you haven't yet read McDougall's book--and if you have even a passing interest in running--I highly suggest you take this as an opportunity to do so. Everyone who met El Caballo speaks about him in the same glowing terms as those quoted in the above excerpt, and I can't help but be similarly impressed from a distance.

True was clearly a unique and "colorful" character (much as I dislike that term) who lived life by his own rules, in his own way. In our increasingly homogenized society, I think that's something that's as admirable as it is rare.

I always aspire to have a little bit more Micah True in me, if only so that I can better enjoy each day in front of me without worrying about what tomorrow brings. Running, for me, is one of the few things that helps give me that perspective, and I'm glad that I've discovered it as an outlet (even if took me nearly 30 years to do so).

I'll be taking this opportunity to re-read McDougall's book, which I find to be both fascinating and oddly inspirational. I hope you'll feel the same way about the book and about Micah True. R.I.P.


No comments:

Post a Comment