Chris McDougall, author of Born To Run, eulogizes the long-distance runner Caballo Blanco

hedgeless_horseman's picture

On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.  True.

On BBC News Magazine, Chris McDougall, author of Born To Run, eulogizes the long-distance runner Michael Randall Hickman, also known as Micah True, White Horse, or Caballo Blanco.


“Don’t fight the trail. Take what it gives you,” he began. “Lesson two – think easy, light, smooth and fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t [care] how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go.


“When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practising, you work on making it smooooooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one – you get those three, and you’ll be fast.”


The above two paragraphs have stuck with me so well that I have found myself repeating them on the trail many times since reading Born To Run. If you are a runner and have read the book, then maybe you, too, sometimes repeat these words.  Surely, you understand why hearing of Micah's death took my breath sat me down. 

Even if you are not a runner, I recommend you read the book. It is an incredible true story about incredible real people.  We need both in today's day and age.

We will miss you, Micah. God speed.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Fred Hayek's picture

Read the book for the section from about page 210 to about page 240 if nothing else.  The author gets into the science of how humans evolved and what we evolved to do.  And a big part of the answer is persistence hunting, basically running some deer to its death.  If you're a science geek, like me, it was fascinating. 

And the bottom line of the book is that all the crap from Nike and other running shoe companies that we've heard for 40 years is BS.  The human body is designed for you to land on the front half of your foot if you're running any distance at all.  Designing shoes with cushioning to make it a little easier for you to land on your heel is inviting you to injure yourself.

RunningMan's picture

The survival rate for all of us will drop to zero, but we can focus on quality of life while it is non-zero.

"...humans are creatures of constant motion, and if we forget that we survived and thrived for most of our existence as long-distance runners, we'll suffer the same consequences as any other caged animal - disease, mood swings, eating disorders, all-around misery."


I started running for fitness/health, continued as it became my therapy, and now it is just an integral part of my life. For all our technology and money printing, we are who we are - and those things are just different kinds of cages for animals. Eventually we will understand that as humans and society, and we will be better for it. But we aren't there yet, not close.

Easy, light, smooth and fast.

nothing can go wrogn's picture

Great book.

Love the lesson here. A bunch of high tech people who don't know shit. Find the secrets of long distance running, not in some fancy computer algorithm or from some arrogant scientist...but in an ancient tribe of runners, still holding to traditional ways in the wild and crazy Sierra Madre mountains.

Earth wisdom, lost wisdom (no iPhone app for that yet).

It's interesting to note that this style of running used by the Tarahumara is way to run down animals. Not run them down like a cheetah, but run them out of energy through a steady pace, good tracking and persistence. Eventually you will be able to walk up to the deer and just about push them over. (A running style of hunting observed in Africa and other places as well).

azzhatter's picture

I'm an avid runner myself, didn't start running until age 54 but I knew the Cliff Young story and it was an inspiration. Fine gentleman ol' Cliff

hankwil74's picture

As phenomenal a book as Born To Run was, Micah was even a more phenomenal person.  I treasure the time spent getting to know him and I cried when I found out that he had passed.  The world is worse off without Micah.

RobertBrusca's picture

Fantastic book.

runner or not a must read.

I have recommended it to many no one has said they did not enjoy it.

Great story. Great information.

touches all the bases.


Boxed Merlot's picture

Watched a western states ultra a few years back, a niece participated and the family did crew.  I cheered like a high school pom pom girl at the first check point a mere 25 miles or so from the start on the Tahoe side of Squaw Valley.  I had no idea the depth of charactor these people share, no corporate sponsors, no cash awards, no cheering crowds beyond each others encouragement.  100 miles in less than 30 hours gets a belt buckle.  It would be a shame for this activity to go mainstream imo.

bullet's picture

as a long time competitive runner and cyclist...

a tip of the cap....

Gully Foyle's picture

Fuck that shit

An Unlikely Competitor
Cliff Young

Every year, Australia hosts 543.7-mile (875-kilometer) endurance racing from Sydney to Melbourne. It is considered among the world's most grueling ultra-marathons. The race takes five days to complete and is normally only attempted by world-class athletes who train specially for the event. These athletes are typically less than 30 years old and backed by large companies such as Nike.

In 1983, a man named Cliff Young showed up at the start of this race. Cliff was 61 years old and wore overalls and work boots. To everyone's shock, Cliff wasn't a spectator. He picked up his race number and joined the other runners.

The press and other athletes became curious and questioned Cliff. They told him, "You're crazy, there's no way you can finish this race." To which he replied, "Yes I can. See, I grew up on a farm where we couldn't afford horses or tractors, and the whole time I was growing up, whenever the storms would roll in, I'd have to go out and round up the sheep. We had 2,000 sheep on 2,000 acres. Sometimes I would have to run those sheep for two or three days. It took a long time, but I'd always catch them. I believe I can run this race."

When the race started, the pros quickly left Cliff behind. The crowds and television audience were entertained because Cliff didn't even run properly; he appeared to shuffle. Many even feared for the old farmer's safety.

The Tortoise and the Hare
Cliff Young

All of the professional athletes knew that it took about 5 days to finish the race. In order to compete, one had to run about 18 hours a day and sleep the remaining 6 hours. The thing is, Cliff Young didn't know that!

When the morning of the second day came, everyone was in for another surprise. Not only was Cliff still in the race, he had continued jogging all night.

Eventually Cliff was asked about his tactics for the rest of the race. To everyone's disbelief, he claimed he would run straight through to the finish without sleeping.

Cliff kept running. Each night he came a little closer to the leading pack. By the final night, he had surpassed all of the young, world-class athletes. He was the first competitor to cross the finish line and he set a new course record.

When Cliff was awarded the winning prize of $10,000, he said he didn't know there was a prize and insisted that he did not enter for the money. He ended up giving all of his winnings to several other runners, an act that endeared him to all of Australia.

Continued Inspiration

In the following year, Cliff entered the same race and took 7th place. Not even a displaced hip during the race stopped him.

Cliff came to prominence again in 1997, aged 76, when he attempted to raise money for homeless children by running around Australia's border. He completed 6,520 kilometers of the 16,000-kilometer run before he had to pull out because his only crew member became ill. Cliff Young passed away in 2003 at age 81.

Today, the "Young-shuffle" has been adopted by ultra-marathon runners because it is considered more energy-efficient. At least three champions of the Sydney to Melbourne race have used the shuffle to win the race. Furthermore, during the Sydney to Melbourne race, modern competitors do not sleep. Winning the race requires runners to go all night as well as all day, just like Cliff Young.

He was a vegetarian from 1973 until his death.[7] He lived at home with his mother and brother Sid. After the race, at 62, Young married Mary Howell, 39 years his junior. The race sponsor, Westfield, hosted the wedding for the entertainment of shoppers.[4] They divorced five years later.[6] Renowned for his then ungainly running style, Young ran more than 20,000 kilometres during his competitive career.[6] After five years of illness, he died of cancer, at 5:21 PM on Sunday, 2 November 2003[2] at the age of 81.

In 1983, these top class runners were in for a surprise. On the day of the race, a guy named Cliff Young showed up. At first, no one cared about him since everybody thought he was there to watch the event. After all, he was 61 years old, showed up in overalls and galoshes over his work boots.

As Cliff walked up to the table to take his number, it became obvious to everybody he was going to run. He was going to join a group of 150 world-class athletes and run! During that time, these runners don’t even know another surprising fact – his only trainer was his 81-year-old mother, Neville Wran.

Everybody thought that it was a crazy publicity stunt. But the press was curious, so as he took his number 64 and moved into the pack of runners in their special, expensive racing outfit, the camera focused on him and reporters started to ask:

“Who are you and what are you doing?”

“I’m Cliff Young. I’m from a large ranch where we run sheep outside of Melbourne.”

They said, “You’re really going to run in this race?”

“Yeah,” Cliff nodded.

“Got any backers?”


“Then you can’t run.”

“Yeah I can.” Cliff said. “See, I grew up on a farm where we couldn’t afford horses or four wheel drives, and the whole time I was growing up– until about four years ago when we finally made some money and got a four wheeler– whenever the storms would roll in, I’d have to go out and round up the sheep. We had 2,000 head, and we have 2,000 acres. Sometimes I would have to run those sheep for two or three days. It took a long time, but I’d catch them. I believe I can run this race; it’s only two more days. Five days. I’ve run sheep for three.”

When the marathon started, the pros left Cliff behind in his galoshes. The crowds smiled because he didn’t even run correctly. Instead of running, he appeared to run leisurely, shuffling like an amateur.

Now, the 61-year-old potato farmer from Beech Forest with no teeth had started the ultra-tough race with world-class athletes. All over Australia, people who watched the live telecast kept on praying that someone would stop this crazy old man from running because everyone believed he’ll die even before even getting halfway across Sydney.


When Cliff was awarded the first prize of $10,000, he said he did not know there was a prize and insisted that he had not entered for the money. He said, “There’re five other runners still out there doing it tougher than me,” and he gave them $2,000 each. He did not keep a single cent for himself. That act endeared him to all of Australia. Cliff was a humble, average man, who undertook an extraordinary feat and became a national sensation.

The Inspirational Run Continues

In the following year, Cliff Young entered the same race and won the 7 th place. During the race, his hip popped out of the joint socket, his knee played up and he endured shin splints. But those didn’t deter him from finishing the race. When he was announced as the winner for most courageous runner and presented with a Mitsubishi Colt, he said, “I didn’t do it near as tough as old Bob McIlwaine. Here, Bob, you have the car,” and gave the keys to him.

It was said that Cliff Young never kept a single prize. People gave him watches, because he never had one. He would thank them because he did not want to hurt their feelings, but will then give it away to the first child he saw. He did not understand why he would need a watch because, he said, he knew when it was daylight, when it was dark, and when he was hungry.

Cliff came to prominence again in 1997, aged 76, when he attempted to become the oldest man to run around Australia and raise money for homeless children. He managed to completed 6,520km of the 16,000km run before he had to pull out after his only permanent crew member became ill.

Tator's picture

If you have any foot problems this book.

hedgeless_horseman's picture




If you are long this book.



Disclosure statement:  Long Luna Sandals

GeneMarchbanks's picture

I listened to the audiobook while on summer vacation last year, I was pissed I didn't get the actual book after not being able to stop listening. Amazing story.

I'll pour out some tesguino, RIP Micah.

infiniti's picture

Thank goodness that this man was recognized here.

He changed the way that modern society thinks about the ethos of running.