The extreme running endurance of the Rarámuri (or Tarahumara) people in the Copper Canyon in Northwest Mexico was popularized in the United States by the book Born To Run, written by Christopher McDougall. The author narrates the story of his personal experiences with the indigenous people, and recounts meeting Caballo Blanco, a man who became a sensation in the United States after McDougall’s book sold close to 3 million copies.
This week, a documentary called Run Free: The True Story of Caballo Blanco will be hitting select theaters across the country. The movie has already won at a few film festivals, such as IndieFEST and the 2015 Arizona International Film Festival.
So who exactly is Caballo Blanco, the man that inspired a bestseller, a documentary, and whose name is also in the Tarahumara’s tough yearly race?
He was born as Michael Randall Hickman, but adopted the name Micah True later in life, before he had any idea many would eventually call him Caballo Blanco. Here are five facts might you not know about the man who had a small part in preserving the long-held tradition of the Tarahumara, a community that unfortunately continues to struggle today.
Caballo Blanco got his nickname from Guatemalans.
The nickname Caballo Blanco was given to Micah by indigenous people in Guatemala. The runner stated that while running in the surroundings of Lake Atlitlán, a local told him he looked like a white horse, so he adopted the nickname.
Before running, he was a man of the sweet science.
He was a professional boxer for eight years while still living in Boulder, Colorado. He retired with a record of 9-11-0, and was known as the Gypsy Cowboy.
Caballo Blanco became an honorary Tarahumara.
His first meeting with the Tarahumara people was when he heard that volunteers were needed to take donated blankets and food to the people living at the Copper Canyon, so they could better face the upcoming harsh winter. Micah always stated he was amazed by the Tarahumara’s idea of community, and their “cosmovision” of life. In the 1990s, he moved there and created the 50-mile Copper Canyon Ultra-Marathon to honor their running traditions and ensure their sustainability.
Caballo Blanco was a military brat.
He was the son of a World War II Marine Corps gunnery sergeant, so he grew up traveling around the country as his family relocated to different Marine Corps bases. He attended Humboldt State University in California, where he studied Eastern Religions and Native American history.
Caballo Blanco believed "we are all winners."
Caballo Blanco died running in the Sonora desert in 2012. Building his organization in his adopted town of Urique, Chihuahua, which was one of the most popular ultra marathons in the world, was a laborious but valuable effort. His last speech at the ultra marathon was an emotive one: “Here in Urique, in this race and life, there are no losers, we are all winners. We are all winners. To live the pure life is to win. To live with love and peace and harmony without violence is to win. We are all winners.”