People Who Kick Buts: Micah True
If I were to be remembered for anything at all, I would want that to be that I am/was authentic. No Mas. Run Free!
- Born on November 10, 1953 in Oakland, California and passed away on March 27, 2012 in Gila Wilderness, New Mexico.
- Born Michael Randall Hickman and also known as Caballo Blanco, was an American ultrarunner from Boulder, Colorado, who received attention because of his depiction as a central character in Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run.
- True’s inclusion in the book garnered him some attention in ultrarunning circles, and some readers credited him as their inspiration for taking up the sport.
- Micah True was born Michael Randall Hickman in Oakland, California, the son of a World War II Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant, and the second of four children.
He grew up traveling the country as his family relocated to various nationally located Marine Corps bases.
His family was conservative Roman Catholic, but True aligned himself with the counter-culture movement of the 1960s and 70s.
- True attended Humboldt State University where he studied Eastern religions and Native American history.
To earn money he began prizefighting in informal boxing bouts, using the name “Gypsy Cowboy,” and perhaps taking the occasional dive for an easy payday.
- Between 1974 and 1982, Hickman was a professional middleweight boxer, fighting under the name Mike “True” Hickman. His career record was 9 wins (KO 2), 11 losses (KO 9), and 0 draws.
- At some point True spent 10 months living in a cave in Hawaii where he fell in love with a rich girl.
- It was when she left him, he said, that he took up long-distance running.
- He also changed his name from Michael Hickman to Micah True. (The name Micah came from the Bible, whilst True came from the name of a beloved pet: True Dog.)
- By 1982, True had moved to Boulder, Colorado where he began working as a self-employed furniture mover.
- For almost 20 years, he spent winters running in Mexico, Guatemala, and Central America, averaging 170 miles (270 km) per week.
He would return to Boulder, Colorado during the summers, to earn enough money to live on the rest of the year.
- Among villagers he became known as “El Caballo Blanco” or “The White Horse” for his long blond hair and pale skin.
- In 1993 True came in contact with the Tarahumara or Rarámuri runners from Chihuahua, Mexico. In 1994 he began spending his winters running in the Copper Canyons, where he built a hut and began establishing a relationship with the Tarahumara natives.
- In 2003 True decided to organize a race for the Tarahumara natives that would help them preserve their culture and running heritage. The first Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon was held on March 23, 2003; though turnout was small, it became an annual tradition.
- In 2006 True got the idea of having American ultrarunners to compete with the Tarahumara. He began reaching out on the internet, and wrote an article in Men’s Health elucidating many of the lessons he internalized from the Tarahumara people. He also contacted Christopher McDougall, a writer for Men’s Health, who would later write the book Born to Run.
- On March 27, 2012, True failed to return after heading out for a run in the Gila Wilderness, part of the Gila National Forest in southwestern New Mexico.
He departed from the Wilderness Lodge in Gila saying he was going for a 12 mile (19 km) run. A subsequent mountain rescue effort involved three aircraft and at least nine search and rescue teams in off-road vehicles and on horseback, looking across 200,000 acres (81,000 ha) of high desert. Searchers included ultra-runners such as Scott Jurek, Kyle Skaggs, and many athletes and friends who had participated in the 51 mile Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon.
- On March 31 True was found dead with his legs dangling in a stream.
The local sheriff said there were “no obvious signs of trauma” although True had scrapes and abrasions on his hands, arms, and knees, suggesting a fall.
His remains were removed by horseback, and because of difficult terrain and remote location, the recovery was not completed until April 1.
An autopsy was inconclusive with respect to the actual cause of death, revealing, however, that True was suffering from idiopathic cardiomyopathy, which had caused the left ventricle of his heart to become enlarged.