Flight


I spent last week in a haze of half sleep, burning 103 degree fever, sweatsoaked sheets, and 6-hour countdowns for the next little orange Advil pill. The hardest part of the week was the boredom and dull depression that slowly descended from not running, and the feeling that this sickness just wouldn't end.

I tried to run on Thursday, bundling up in a hat, gloves, a black long sleeve wool shirt, and shorts (I would have worn tights, but I don't have any). I ignored the accusatory looks from my wife as I set out shivering in the 75 degree heat and walked, jogged, hiked, and struggled through a tough couple of miles. I returned home defeated, coughing and tired. I decided to go see a doctor. She told me that I had the flu and secondary infections in the throat, sinuses, ears, and to top it off, bronchitis. She recommended antibiotics and I agreed, although I don’t like taking them because my antibodies are f’ing macho, but this sickness warranted some reinforcements.

The fog of sickness slowly lifted on Saturday and I ate some solid food off the taco cart at our neighborhood block party because I just like to jump in with both feet. My friend Chris sent a message Saturday night about meeting up for a run on Sunday morning, and while I didn't think I could join for the entire 2-3 hours he was planning on doing, I did think I could manage a slow 6 miler.

Saturday night I read that Search and Rescue had located Micah True (Caballo Blanco from Born to Run), deceased, in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico, and as I woke up with a slight fever Sunday morning, sleeping through my alarm and missing Chris, I knew I had to get out to run anyway. My thoughts were with Caballo Blanco as I set out on my own, slowly, my legs remembering what it was like to move across trails and my feet feeling the sharp rocks through the soles of thin shoes, and my breath came fast and labored, rattling around in the top of my lungs. I thought this is probably what new runners feel like, sore knees and ankles, but unlike them, I knew the feeling that would soon come. I had lost some fitness, but not much. I chose a semi-flat route and was starting to feel good when I turned a corner and ran into Chris who joined me, forsaking the hilly route that I'm sure he preferred, and slowed to match my intentionally and necessarily slow pace. We talked about Zion, the traverse we would be sharing in a couple of short weeks, we talked about Caballo Blanco, we talked about running, Chris buying a house in the neighborhood, and the trails we have yet to explore. We hit the coffee shop, my intended stopping point and he continued on, and while my legs wanted to follow, my lungs said enough.

After meeting my family for breakfast and with the post-run energy coursing through my blood, I asked my daughter if she wanted to go on a hike with me. She has grown so fast and walking and talking with her now is like talking to a friend. We stopped to rest (more for me than for her) at the top of a climb and we looked down at a large hawk perched on top of a tree. We sat there, talking and waiting for the hawk to take off. The wind picked up and as Sophie asked me when the hawk was going to fly, it spread its huge brown and white wings and caught a breeze, floating up on the current, soft, effortless. We both stood there, amazed. I have never seen a hawk fly from above, and it was so beautiful. It banked against the side of the hill we were on, then wings spread wide, it soared directly over our heads, so close that I felt that if I jumped I might be able to touch it with the tips of my fingers. My daughter gasped and I just stood there, grateful for the moment and the opportunity to see this beautiful bird so close, so free, and floating in the wind.

Being sick for the week made me not only appreciate and miss the running, but also what running has given me, the amazing local running community, the appreciation of the trails and of being outside and able to witness such beauty.

I never met Caballo Blanco, or had a chance to run with him, but I was an admirer through the stories of other people. He was an inspiration to so many trail runners, a legend, and the thing about legends is that we all have a part in creating them, fleshing them out with ideals and ethics that we strive for. Caballo Blanco's love of the trail, his simple appreciation for nature and his selflessness and loyalty to the indigenous Raramuri people was an inspiration to me, and to so many others. There have been many things written about Caballo Blanco over the last few days by people who knew him and by people who were touched by him, and as his legend grows, because legends are immortal, I hope more will be inspired by him, and that the Raramuri will not be forgotten. Who knows what Caballo Blanco's last moments were like, but they were on the trail, and I like to think they were effortless, free, and soaring.

Caballo Blanco (Photo Courtesy of Denver Western Blogs)

Thanks for reading.
More about the Raramuri and how to help.
I enjoyed reading Ben's thoughts on Caballo Blanco.
Another nice memory.

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