Bye Bye Blanco

Quinn Hull, Sports Editor

Caballo Blanco is dead.

Yes, the legend, otherwise known as Micah True, who is indirectly responsible for all you runners and walkers that wear those five-finger footie things, is gone. He was found in the vast Gila National Forest in New Mexico a few weeks ago. Fittingly he died doing what he’d always done best — running.

If you haven’t heard of True, it’s probably because you don’t run, or haven’t read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run, an ultra-running cult classic that chronicles why we shouldn’t wear Nike and Adidas and the story of the Tarahumara. The Tarahumara is a tiny, reclusive indigenous tribe that for centuries has hidden from the perils of modernity (and drugs) in Mexico’s Copper Canyons, and whose members are runners. Runners who, according to McDougall, wearing only leather straps on their feet to perform epic running feats at which we well-fed folk from the north first blush, then scoff, then vomit — jogs of 50, 100, 150 and even 200 miles at a time.

And for a while, juxtaposed amongst these running people was True, an anglo outcast from Nederland, CO.

Blanco wore Teva sandals while running, never conventional shoes. And, according to an article published a few years back in the New York Times, he might have even taken it a step further had his body allowed for it.

“If my gringo feet could handle it, going barefoot would be even better,” he said.

Doctrine, right?

I remember reading about Caballo Blanco during the summer separating my senior year of high school and first year at Oberlin. It was that romantic period when some (Ok, I) waxed nostalgic about the past — how much one (I) would miss Mom’s corned beef and one’s (my) buddy’s peculiar body odor (“Swamp Ass,” in the vernacular) — and speculated uncertainly about the looming mystery otherwise known as College.

A group of my friends decided to celebrate that time of transition by going West: driving from lonely little southwest Virginia to big, bad Colorado.

During the approximately 36-hour ride out, each of the four of us had the opportunity to voraciously consume Born to Run (we were all of the high school Cross Country team), and a philosophical schism formed. On one side, I and another declared allegiance to the “White Horse” and swore never to wear more than Teva-brand sandals while jogging again; on the other side were the others who, well, just didn’t get it.

It might seem like a silly rift to you, but it became a big deal days later when our foursome we started the hike up Mount Audobon, a 13,223–footer in the Rocky Mountains that was one of the apples of our west-ward journey’s eye. It was all clear skies, a beautiful day, glacial temperatures and a pebbly path. On the way up two of my friends wore shoes while me and my buddy’s feet were strapped into brand-new Teva sandals. At times we walked, at others we jogged. And so easily did I summit, so euphorically enraptured was I by this whole Born to Run thing, that for the return trip I took off my sandals and walked down that mountain barefoot, determined to one-up even Caballo Blanco.

But alas, what you read in books rarely pans out in reality. Turns out that my other sandal-wearing friend, and supposed ally, elected not to bear all of his sole. So I was alone, increasingly falling back behind my shoed and sandaled buddies and getting eyed suspiciously by the few people that passed me going the other way. About halfway down the mountain, my friends out of sight and the euphoria of the au natural foot lifting, I decided that was that. I put on my sandals right then and there and disavowed my earlier vow to never wear running shoes again.

I know what you’re thinking: I’m a wimp. But that’s really all it took for me to give up on the doctrine of Caballo Blanco. No snake bites, nor thorns nor even a stubbed toe. Just a little bit of adversity. Chapter closed.

Now that Micah True is no longer running, however, I’m tempted to point my nose skyward and apologize to him for giving up so easily. But only because he’s dead.