Yesterday evening, one of the most intriguing non-fiction stories of the past decade had a tragic epilogue written on its own. If you’ve either started running in the past few years or were a runner, there’s a good chance you’ve read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run. If you haven’t, you should. It’s the engaging story of how and why we run, a human narrative of impulse and ability that’s filled with characters with so much personality, you would think they were a product of fiction. But, they’re not. And that’s part of why the story is so great.
If you’ve read Born to Run, you then know that Micah True, also known as Caballo Blanco, is one of the central and most compelling figures in the story. An almost mythical character that runs like a shadow through the Copper Canyons of Mexico. It was in chasing down this myth that helped prompt and shape the whole narrative that drives Born to Run.
Being an English Literature major in college, I’m familiar with characters weaving in and out of my life with each story. In fiction, even if we know the ultimate fate of the character, they relive again when we take the book off the shelf for a new read. In life, however, we cannot escape the ultimate fate of someone. If you read a biography of Abraham Lincoln you know that though his legacy endures, his life ends at Ford’s Theater. Hemingway ends his own story in Idaho. Amelia Earhart flies off to the sunset and never returns. In this story, Caballo Blanco goes for a routine 12 mile run on a Tuesday and goes missing. For four days a massive search throughout the New Mexico desert yields no results, until on the evening of Saturday, March 31st, his body is finally recovered. As Christopher McDougall states: “Caballo had the only funeral he would have wanted: his friends spent days running in the wilderness in his honor.”
In fiction, Gatsby becomes the timeless American dreamer again in the first chapter. Othello redeems his honor in the first act. And although one story of a man’s life, almost too incredible to be real, has ended – a legacy will endure. The mythical ideal that exemplifies the soul of the runner continues. And, on page one, he will live again.