I’m tired right now. Tired because I went on a damn long run today thanks to Micah True. And I’m thankful for that.
For those of you that don’t recognize the name, Micah True was an ultra-endurance runner of almost legendary stature. He became so largely after being prominently featured in the best selling book Born To Run. If you’ve read the book, which you likely have, he is the person in the book nick-named the Cabllo Blanco — the Western runner who had moved to live and run among the Tarahumara tribe of Mexico. Micah died this past week while out on a run. In the wake of his death, many people have reflected on his influence in getting a new breed of people interested in running. Some have suggested that we runners leave our watches behind and just go out for a long run in his honor.Today was one of those days when I was waffling about running outdoors or sticking to the treadmill. A steady rain was falling outside, but alas it is Spring in Portland, so the weather is warm enough to brave the rain. I had forgotten to charge my GPS unit, but I took one look at the treadmills and decided that I needed to get outside today. I headed for a trail that I run only occasionally and I started to reflect on what Micah and Born To Run had meant to me.
This trail leads into the woods, down into a low valley where it crosses a creek. The crossing at this point is a series of foot-bridges set above a marshy area. As I ran along the trail thinking about what I wanted to write about Micah I came to the crossing and the bridges were completely submerged in water. A broad smile instantly leapt across my face. Micah must have wanted me to go another way I thought to myself.
I headed back up the trail, still grinning, and then descended another trail toward the creek. This time the trail wasn’t submerged, but about 50 yards farther along the trail a huge puddle covered it from side-to-side and beyond. I stopped and took a look. There was no way that I could jump it. Even at my best, I would need to take two or three steps in the calf-deep water. I laughed out loud as I stood there. ‘You want me to go through, don’t you?’ I said aloud.
I took a few steps back and started running toward the water. Instead of jumping, I just ran on through. I felt the water and mud gushing into my shoes. And I laughed.
Sloshing up the hill on the other side, I thought that Micah might be happy, having at least broken me out of my routine and gotten me just a little wet in the process. You see, Micah believed that running was about heart. Running was to be experienced. It wasn’t just about the race or the time, but about the process and the feeling of freedom from just doing it.
The next part of this run took me through a neighborhood that I don’t know particularly well. I don’t know it well, because I normally take the other trail, which ends up somewhere else. I thought about Micah’s explorer’s attitude. This time I circled the neighborhood, ending up on a street that left me confused. My sense of direction is almost legendary, but this time I was flummoxed. I reached for my GPS watch to do a “track-back”, but it was not there on my wrist today. The sky was covered in low clouds so I couldn’t see the sun. I thought that even explorers get lost sometimes and that’s part of the journey.
I took a left turn and then another. Unfortunately, I was now running in exactly the wrong direction and I wouldn’t figure that out for about two miles when I hit the highway.
‘Shit’ I thought to myself. I was now miles from my office and I wasn’t even sure which way to turn on the highway to get a the closest through street back to where I needed to go. I was forced to make the safer choice, knowing that it was going to be a long, long, way back. I imagined Micah giggling with excitement as I trudged my way back. His prodding had not only sent me on a new path, through muddy water, but now had extended my 45 minute run into an hour and a half.
When I was on my final approach I came to a mud puddle, covering half of the road. I thought about running through. This time I ran around it. As I did so, I thanked Micah for all he did for running. And then I admitted that I’m still not the mud puddle type. And I’m glad I had a way to find that out.
Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
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