Some people are content working just enough to support a carefree lifestyle riding the Pacific waves, others prefer to skate their way through life, still others like to spend their days running dozens of miles through rugged mountain trails. Granted, you may not be as familiar with the latter, but so-called “trail bums” are lifestyle running addicts that populate the American West and can be identified by their overdeveloped quadriceps and total lack of body fat. If you’re still not convinced, there is perhaps no greater example than the legendary ultramarathon runner nicknamed Caballo Blanco, who is the subject of the new documentary Run Free.
Born Michael Hickman, Micah “Caballo Blanco” True spent decades of his life trucking between Boulder, Colorado – where he would work moving furniture each summer to save for the rest of the year – and Latin America, where he would run up to 170 miles a week for months on end. Along the way, he crossed paths with one of the legendary Rarámuri (Tarahumara) runners and made his way down to Copper Canyon, Chihuahua, where he found an entire ethnic group of kindred spirits.
Run Free documents his efforts to bolster the Rarámuri’s running traditions by founding the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon, which brought together runners from the disparate communities throughout the Copper Canyon area along with anyone else who dared take on the rocky 50-mile challenge. Cash prizes for the winners were supplemented by corn vouchers for anyone who completed the race, and the so-called Copper Canyon Ultramarathon quickly emerged as a joyous annual celebration of Rarámuri traditions.
In Run Free, we see interviews with True as well as his friends and admirers, who extoll the virtues and kind spirit of Caballo Blanco even after his tragic sudden death running a trail in southern New Mexico. With images of smiling indigenous people running along craggy paths in their traditional clothing, and a lot of talk about the positive impact of the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon on their community, one might start smelling another manifestation of the white savior narrative. But whether or not the filmmakers actually bought into that, it’s clear Micah True was just a simple guy who truly cared for the Rarámuri people.
Run Free is currently available for rental on Vimeo’s On Demand platform.