Monday, April 2, 2012

What Caballo Blanco Means to Me

I am an engineer. There is no denying that. I was an engineer back when I thought that was someone who drove a train. I was an engineer before I understood what my dad (a chemical engineer) did. I have 2 degrees in engineering.  Yet, I have never worked as an engineer.

Maybe that is why Born to Run struck a chord with me.  I study things to increase my understanding, to make myself more well rounded, to become a better person. Born to Run taught me things about running and about myself that I believe made me a better person. The story of Micah True or "Caballo Blanco" was a key part if that journey. It may be a truly great story or just a cheap literary device.  Either way, for many of us who read the book, it was what sucked us in - the tale of this intriguing mystery man who disappeared into the desert to run with the greatest running people in the world.  The science in the book facinated me, but the people in the book are what helped cement my love for running.

Caballo Blanco was, I believe, every runner. Everyone who runs will eventually have those moments when they are one with the world. Their minds empty and they think of nothing - not work, not family, not friends, not breathing, not pace, not turnover, not PRing or BQing - nothing. There is only their body, in that place, at that time, moving through the world like the crawling ants, the falling leaves, the flowing streams. It doesn't matter if you are on a secluded trail in the middle of nowhere or in the middle of the lower Manhattan financial district during rush hour, you can still find those moments. I like to believe that is what Caballo was looking for and found in the Copper Canyons: a connection to himself and to the planet through running and those peaceful, loving people who made it the center of their culture.

This may be a grandios interpretation of someones poetic license of a really bad situation, but that isn't important. Regardless of how much of Born to Run is fact and how much is fiction, it is full of truth.  It is a story about things as runners we all already know. Because it surrounds these things with history and scientific studies and intriguing personalities makes it entertaining and believable, but it is telling us things we already know because we feel them.

Because of this, I know one thing: we should not morn the death of Caballo Blanco for long. When he left on that 12 mile run last week, I believe he knew it could be his last. I believe if you told him there was a good chance he would die in the woods that day, even if you told him he would certainly die that day, he still would have run. I think deep down we all know that every time we hit the trail or the road, it could be the last time. People who don't run mock the runners who drop dead of heart attacks in the middle of their runs. I know. I used to be one of the mockers. Now I understand. They could have had that heart attack on their couch or in their office. They could have been hit by a car or struck by lightning.  When their time came, they could not escape. What they could do in the mean time is run.

I believe Micah True knew that more than anyone. I believe he understood what running means to everyone who runs. I also believe he understood how running unites people. When is the last time you saw a marathon winner turn around and taunt the second place finisher? How many times have you seen them embrace? I think that is what we should think of when we think of Micah True or Caballo Blanco - that he has crossed the finish line and now is there to cheer us all on.