Photo: Movie producers and sponsors discuss the film at the “Run Free” premiere in Boston, MA (Ari Schneider/Alpenclimb)
What does it mean to run free? How do you give and expect nothing in return, not even a simple measure of gratitude?
That was Micah True, better known as Caballo Blanco. True became a mythicized legend in Christopher McDougall’s novel “Born to Run” in 2009. Although True died in April 2012, his legend lives on. Filmmaker Sterling Noren and Saucony have just released their 90 minute documentary, “Run Free,” that depicts True, the Tarahumara Indian tribe in northern Mexico and a culture of altruism combined with running that is nothing short of inspirational.
The film is far more than a story about athletic conquest and results. It is about the influence one man can have on a community, on a culture, and on a sport that brought people from all corners of the world together. “Run Free” is about kórima—to give without expecting anything in return.
Noren explained that he did not originally come to the Copper Canyon looking for the story of Caballo Blanco, but rather he stumbled upon True at a hostel when the filmmaker’s motorcycle broke down.
“[True] came out of the little hostel I was staying at with his dog, Guadajuko… [later] he said, ‘you know, you’re a filmmaker, you should stick around and film my race…it’s right here in Urique.’” From there, Noren explained that he was amazed and blown away with both True and the Tarahumara, the way they lived their life with humility and simplicity.
Ritchie Woodworth, President of Saucony, explained that True’s presence in the Copper Canyons of northern Mexico really brought about positive change. “It’s a fantastic story that we will go on to tell for eons of time,” Woodworth said.
The film portrays the connection that True established with the Tarahumara Indians, who have a tradition of ultra running in their tribe. True wanted to preserve the Tarahumara’s culture, while at the same time bring the culture of running and giving to the Copper Canyons.
Jonathan Beverly, Editor in Chief of Running Times Magazine, described True as “Authentic. He wanted to live an authentic life.”
Noren added that he too was drawn to True’s authenticity. “For me, it was important to preserve the integrity of the emotional journey…that’s what Caballo meant to me; he allowed me to further open up my own heart.”
Maria Walton—executive producer of Run Free, co-race director of the Ultramarathon Caballo Blanco and close friend to True—explained that True wanted people to appreciate the culture of the Tarahumara and to come together to enjoy the mutual joy of running.
“Micah wanted that message to be heard…I can’t let his dream die,” Walton said.
Woodworth added that True wanted all of this without any credit; Caballo Blanco embodied kórima. “I don’t think Micah would have ever thought of himself as an icon, as a mythical figure, as a legend… His life was about the transformative power of running,” Woodworth said.
Walton recalled a conversation she had with True about the character of Caballo Blanco. “He said, ‘Caballo is not a hero, I’m not a great anything, I’m just a horse of a different color dancing to a beat of a peaceful drum. If I wanted to be remembered for anything, is that I am, and I was authentic and real, no más, run free.’”