Run Free – The True Story of Caballo Blanco, a feature documentary directed by Sterling Noren, chronicles the life of American ultra running legend Micah True (Caballo Blanco, or the White Horse) and his quest to create an ultra marathon in Mexico’s Copper Canyon to promote and preserve Tarahumara running tradition. True was a main character in Christopher McDougall’s best-selling book Born to Run – A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.
Micah True was a gifted athlete who ran for long distances in the trails around his hometown of Boulder, Colorado. When he wasn’t running, he liked to sit outside of the Trident Cafe with his dog and talk about art, spirituality and nature. He lived simply, had very few material possessions and delivered furniture in an old pick up truck to make ends meet. In 1994, he ran with the Tarahumara Indians of Northern Mexico at the Leadville 100.
Following this encounter, True began traveling to Mexico each winter to live and run among the Tarahumara. He didn’t approach them directly, and mostly ran on his own. Over time he was gradually accepted by them and began to understand their culture. Running has always been an important part of Tarahumara culture, but today they don’t run nearly as much as they used to. More and more roads are being built in the canyons. In addition, they face numerous other challenges including draught, hunger and environmental devastation from mining, logging and drug cultivation.
Inspired by his experiences of running with the Tarahumara, Micah wanted to give them something in return. He envisioned an ultra marathon that would take place on their own turf, with runners from around the world traveling into the deep canyons to run with the Tarahumara. Every one who finished would win 500 pounds of corn. For the draught-stricken Tarahumara this would be a real incentive to run. The international runners would get an opportunity to run with some of the best runners in the world. Everyone would benefit.
The race grew slowly for the first few years until 2006 when a journalist named Christopher McDougall traveled into the canyons with a few other runners from the outside world. He was gathering material for a story that would later become the book Born to Run – A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. Upon publication in 2009, the book quickly became a New York Times best seller. Suddenly everyone wanted to know more about the mysterious Caballo Blanco and the ‘barefoot’ runners in Mexico.
Although Micah cared little for fame or fortune, he realized an opportunity when he saw it and used his celebrity to promote the race, which ultimately benefited the Raramuri. By 2012, the race had grown to over 400 participants and raised over $40,000 to provide aid to the Tarahumara.
Shortly after the 2012 race Micah True disappeared while trail running in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. Runners from around North America came to the Gila to join the search for True. Four days later, his body was found and recovered. He died of natural causes doing what he loved to do best – running alone in the wilderness. Today, his legacy continues through the Ultra Marathon Caballo Blanco that takes place on the first Sunday of March every year in the Copper Canyon.
A FILM BY: Sterling Noren
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Maria Walton
MUSIC BY: Trace Bundy
DIRECTOR/DP/EDITOR: Sterling Noren
PHOTOGRAPHER: Luis Escobar
PRODUCER: Leslie Gaines
PRODUCED BY: Noren Films in Association with Norawas de Raramuri, Ultra Marathon Caballo Blanco
FEATURING: Micah True, Christopher McDougall, Scott Jurek, Barefoot Ted McDonald, Luis Escobar & the Mas Locos
LENGTH: 90 minutes
FORMAT: 30P Digital Video
PRODUCTION DATES: March 2009 – March 2013
SHOOT LOCATION: Mexico, Colorado, New Mexcio