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Remembering ‘Caballo Blanco’ on the Big Screen

Sterling Noren (left) filmed the ultramarathon caballo blanco in mexico in 2012 just a few weeks before micah true (right) passed away in New Mexico. Photo: Luis Escobar/
Sterling Noren (left) filmed the ultramarathon Caballo Blanco in Mexico in 2012 just a few weeks before Micah True (right) passed away in New Mexico. Photo: Luis Escobar/

“Run Free, man!”

That was the last thing Micah True said to me back in 2010 after meeting early one morning for coffee a few years ago in Boulder, Colo. It was the perfect good-bye, as I was heading off on a trail run and he was about to drive back to his home-away-from-home in the Copper Canyon region of Mexico. Boiled down to its simplest form, that was the purest message the trail running iconoclast left for any us.

Portrayed almost mythically as “Caballo Blanco” in the 2009 best-seller “Born to Run,” True traveled light and moved freely through life, as he did on the trails. He was a nonconformist, holdover hippie, often stubborn, sometimes obstinate, a bit goofy and, by choice, somewhat of a loner too. But his simple and sometimes primal messages made lasting impressions and connected people—both in life, and in death.

In his best-selling book, Christopher McDougall chronicled how True helped rekindle a passion for running with Mexico’s indigenous Raramuri people—aka the Tarahumara Indians—of the Copper Canyon region. True had lived part-time among the Raramuri since the late 1990s and eventually started an ultramarathon to help benefit the local people and economy.

Two films highlighting True’s life have been in the works since he died of heart trouble while running on a remote trail in New Mexico in 2012. The first, “Run Free: The True Story of Caballo Blanco debuted this spring and will continue to be shown across the U.S. this summer and fall. The award-winning documentary by filmmaker Sterling Noren and executive producer Maria Walton, True’s widow, is a heart-warming and tear-jerking portrayal of the man who loved helping others as much as he loved running trails. 

The film is currently touring the festival circuit where it has garnered several prizes, including the Bud Greenspan Documentary Film Award from the Track & Field Writers of America, an IndieFEST “Award of Excellence” and “Best Feature Documentary” at the Arizona International Film Festival. It was also nominated for three awards at the Madrid International Film Festival including “Best Feature Documentary,” “Best Director of a Feature Documentary” and “Best Producer of a Feature Documentary.” Other film festivals where the movie is screening include the New Hope Film Festival, July 24-Aug. 2 in New Hope, Pa., and the Rhode Island International Film Festival Aug. 4-9 in Newport, R.I. Other shows are being planned in California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington and Colorado.

“Micah’s simple dream was to honor the running traditions of the Raramuri families of Las Barrancas del Cobre,” Walton says. “Our labor of love was to share his passion with the world. May his vision inspire us with his message of hope, peace, beauty, and love for one another that we may continue to run free.”

Walton says running clubs are encouraged to host a screening event as a fundraiser through, a web-platform that enables individuals, groups, and organizations to set up personalized screenings of “Run Free” in movie theaters across the country. The film will be released online in September through where viewers will be able to purchase the film digitally for the first time, as either a 48-hour rental (download to rent) or a digital download (download to own).

Meanwhile, the long-awaited Hollywood film adaptation of “Born to Run” is expected to be out in 2017 after a change in producers and a re-wrtiting of the original script. Matthew McConaughey has signed on to play the role of True, according to Deb Newmyer, one of the new executive producers (along with Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mickey Liddell). The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) lists Matthew Michael Carnahan as the lead screenplay writer, but no updates on the film’s progress have been posted since January.

RELATED: The Legacy of “Born to Run”

Those who knew True best—especially those who spent time with him in Mexico—say he lived his life by the spirit of Korima, the Raramuri word for “sharing whatever you have and giving without any expectation of return.” In essence, that’s also the true meaning of “Run Free.”