Over the last few days I have been struggling to write this post. I wanted to write about how the spirit of Caballo Blanco had altered my attitude towards running.
Unfortunately I was never able to meet him or hear him speak. I only had the opportunity to know him virtually — either via his Facebook pages, through the experiences of my friends, or through the book Born to Run.
Whenever I tried to write down how he helped me foster a love of running – how my running experiences have altered due to his inspiration, it felt false. Almost like writing about driving an expensive car, when you have only ever read the owners manual and car reviews.
Knowing how honest he was with himself and others, how could I ever write something that went against that?
How could I express my gratitude for the way he altered my thinking, when I was lacking that personal connection?
This morning as I continued to struggle, I switched off the computer and I did the most honest thing I could think of – I went for a run.
The book, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, is cited by many barefoot and minimalist runners as the reason they rejected conventional shoes.
Caballo Blanco and his attitude to running played an important role in McDougalls’ book and as such, many barefoot and minimalist runners took his idea of “running free,” to heart.
He was passionate about running and he viewed running as a community. Running was to be shared and experienced with others. Every run was to be treated as an achievement.
When barefoot runners decide to leave their shoes at home, they have to re-learn to run. This transition period is usually highlighted as the time when many barefoot runners remember the joy of running.
Taking it slow and having to examine themselves physically leads to many runners examining why they run. Having the connection with the ground brings on a more spiritual connection with the whole process of moving.
We realize the power of our bodies and the joy that comes when we run without hindrance.
I had been running barefoot for over eight months before I read Born to Run. The book wasn’t a pivotal point in my decision to ditch the shoes, however, it was a turning point in my desire to run for sheer enjoyment. I made the decision to stop competing with not only others but myself – ditching the timed goals and the training calendars. Caballo Blanco was integral to my switch in attitude.
It was always clear to me from my passive, virtual encounters, that he was always himself. He was honest with others in the way he dealt with them. He never pretended to be something he wasn’t. Everything he had he shared without any expectations.
I made this my aim too. When I wrote in my personal blog, I tried to be honest. Everything I wrote was unedited and from the heart. Every experience I had, I tried to share.
I realize that my perspective is more detached. I’m not experiencing the intense grief that his close friends and family are currently feeling.
I would hope in the future, his inspiration would lead to a rekindling of the joy of running. People will look upon his life and realize that running is not about pace, finishing times and being better than everyone else. That over the next few years we will see a change in peoples attitudes.
In races, runners will be prepared to help strangers who may need the encouragement regardless of their personal goals. Volunteers will be fully appreciated.
We will once again be thankful that we have this fantastic ability to move with grace in the world we live in and we should embrace the joy that comes with that.
On Sunday, after hearing the news, I decided to skip the 20K, long slow run I had scheduled with my half-marathon running clinic and decided to run my own tribute. I ran as fast as I could over a 10K trail. I ran with joy.
At the turn around I stopped. The sun was breaking in from the morning rain and I could see images forming in the clouds. I was hoping to see a white horse – a sign that I was running on the right track.
All I could see was a pair of kissing beavers and a sitting rabbit. It made me laugh, and I hope that in that moment, somewhere, his spirit understood the thanks I had given up to the sky, not just for the joy of my run, but the difference he had made in my life.
François ‘Flint’ Bourdeau’s post: The Messenger is perhaps the most perfect ending. It’s just beautiful and he says it better than me.