Sunday, June 10, 2012

Apache Tears

"Maria Walton" (C) 2012, Miachelle DePiano Images

On March 27, 2012 the running world was rocked to hear that running legend Micah True, aka Caballo Blanco, was missing.  On March 31, 2012, True’s friend, Ray Molina, found him.  True was lying beside a stream, his legs dangling in the water, his eyes looking up to the sky. The White Horse had gone for his last run. 

True’s love of running and his desire to help humanity continue to inspire. Thrust into the limelight after Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run became a national best seller, True sought to balance his popularity with his desire to remain authentic. One rewarding aspect of his sudden popularity was meeting his girlfriend, Maria Walton. Walton sought him out for advice on marathon training, and the two connected spiritually.

On May 6, 2012, Walton held a memorial run for True at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Friends and fans alike in the Phoenix area attended the run, and presented Walton with tributes to True. She held up well until it was time to speak to everyone before the run. She was choked with emotion as she thanked everyone. After the run, she opened up about her life with True, the difficulty of representing True, and  recounted fond memories.

Walton’s memories are filled with tender moments, starting from the first time she flew out to meet True in Colorado to run with him. Upon contacting him for marathon coaching advice, True didn’t have much advice to give; to him, running was as simple as just going out and doing it, and loving every minute of a run. He had no advice on hydration or caloric intake. He ate and drank as he needed, and it was as simple as that. Their communications continued via Facebook, as friends. They discovered they had some similarities and coincidences in their lives: Walton’s name was the same as his mother’s; she is Apache and True admired Geronimo; and True liked Muhammad Ali (a remnant of his former life as a boxer) and Walton had an uncle who boxed an entry card fight with Ali. Gradually the communication turned flirtatious, and True invited her to fly to Colorado to run and get some “real” elevation training. Hesitantly she agreed, filled with doubt as to how well this meeting would go.

Walton’s flight was delayed. Knowing True’s impatience, she grew more concerned about how upset he would be, and started worrying the trip was off to a bad start.

“I finally land, and he’s like ‘I’m comin’ around to meet ya.’ And then he goes ‘But God, you know how late it is?’ I’m thinking ‘Oh, man he’s not happy right now.’ I thought ‘Well, no big deal. I’ll just get a hotel in downtown Denver and call it a day.’ 

“So he pulls up in his truck his truck up about a quarter…not a quarter mile, but about three blocks from where I’m at, and he’s just sitting there. I’m going ‘Oh gosh he’s changed his mind or he sees me and he’s “I don’t know if this is worth it” and keeps on driving.’ He told me later that he couldn’t…that he was just so surprised that someone as pretty and beautiful as me would want to meet someone like him.”

The four days between the reporting of True being missing and the morning his body was brought in from the Gila Wilderness were fraught with tension, worry, and the stress of handling phone calls from media, friends and family. True’s agent, Scott Leese, took over the chore of handling the phone calls.

“The magnitude of representing Micah in any way was a bit overwhelming because he was private in many ways and he loved the help Scott gave him, but he wouldn’t want people to speak on his behalf in any way. And I didn’t feel I should represent him in that way, I just wanted to find my boyfriend.”

Taking only a few direct calls from those who were closest to True and Walton, she and the core group closest to True carried on the belief he would be found.

“We knew he wasn’t lost. He’s been there 16 years. He wasn’t lost. He might go out farther than sometimes planned, but you know, he wasn’t lost.”

The depth of True’s relationship to the Raramuri was very likely unknown by True. The day the news spread of True being missing, Walton received a call from Mama Tita.

Expressing sorrow and concern for True, Mama Tita described that there were eight or nine Raramuri in front of her restaurant, waiting to hear news, feeling helpless.

“‘They want to help. How can we help? How can we find our brother?’ 

“Micah never intruded on their...Micah would never...he would go outside their pueblo or their cities, but he would never like check into a mountain to find their caves. He would never go into their homes like some reporters have tried to do or other travelers or other journalists...That was sacred to them, and they never invited him...And then they said they were hurting, that their hearts were hurting for their brother. If he had known that, that just would have him so proud, because he loved them, but he never wanted to be in their family because they have their sacred traditions and spiritual beliefs. He didn’t want to intrude on that, he respected that.”

Walton’s grief is bittersweet; the loss of her love so suddenly, offset by the knowledge that he died the way he wanted to.

“So often I speak of him in the present tense. It’s not that I’m denying that he’s gone, I seems just recently we were talking…you know we were having our morning coffee together or sharing silly stories.”

The Caballo Blanco Micah True Memorial Fund, will continue True’s efforts to provide corn and supplies for the Raramuri of the Copper Canyons through the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon.


  1. Beautifully written. Maria's story is an inspiration to those of us who have lost loved ones. Thank you for writing this, and thank you for sharing.

  2. I agree with Crista. I am still awed by the beautiful presence Micah has with all who meet him, regardless if the encounter is on paper, electronically, or in person.

  3. Micah stood tall, not for the things he did, but for those things he didn't do - he didn't intrude, he didn't have an agenda, he held back so others could be themselves, and he didn't try to be the center of attention. Maria was a perfect fit - she too has a tremendous respect for other people, a love for all, and a need to help others find themselves. Your article captured this beautifully - thank you!

  4. A beautiful article on two beautiful people I love. Thanks for sharing :)

  5. Gracias Miachelle for capturing Micah's passion, that we all run free with a spirit of beauty, peace, harmony and love in our hearts. His dream will continue, at the bottom of the Copper Canyons, as we celebrate, as one the magical journey of our sacred Mother Earth.

  6. The legend of the Apache Tear Drop

    There is a haunting legend about the Apache teardrop. After the Pinal Apaches had made several raids on a settlement in Arizona, the military regulars and some volunteers trailed the tracks of the stolen cattle and waited for dawn to attack the Apaches.
    The Apaches, confidant in the safety of their location, were completely surprised and out-numbered in the attack. Nearly 50 of the band of 75 Apaches were killed in the first volley of shots. The rest of the tribe retreated to the cliff's edge and chose death by leaping over the edge rather than die at the hands of the white men.
    For years afterward, those who ventured up the treacherous face of Big Pacacho in Arizona found skeletons, or could see the bleached bones wedged in the crevices of the side of the cliff.
    The Apache Women, and the lovers of those who had died, gathered a short distance from the base of the cliff where the sands were white, and for a moon they wept for their dead. They mourned greatly, for they realized that not only had their 75 brave Apache warriors died, but with them had died the great fighting spirit of the Pinal Apaches.
    Their sadness was so great, and their burden of sorrow so sincere, that the Great Father imbedded into black stones, the tears of the Apache Women whom mourned their dead. These black obsidian stones, when held to the light, reveal the translucent tear of the Apache.
    The stones are said to bring good luck to those possessing them. It is said that whoever owns an Apache teardrop will never have to cry again, for the Apache Women has shed their tears in place of yours.