Arts & Entertainment and Nonprofits

Theater screens Michigan premiere of documentary 'Run Free'

November 17, 2015
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Run Free movie poster
The film “Run Free: The True Story of Caballo Blanco” is directed by Grand Rapids native Sterling Noren and produced by Noren Films. Courtesy Noren Films

Tomorrow night — even before Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey gets a shot at it — Grand Rapids will be the first city in the state to witness the true story of an ultra-running legend.

The feature-length documentary “Run Free: The True Story of Caballo Blanco” will have its Michigan premiere at 7 p.m. at Wealthy Theatre in Grand Rapids.

Tickets for the event, which is being sponsored by the Grand Rapids Running Club, are $12 in advance at online and $15 at the door.

Grand Rapids native Sterling Noren, the documentary’s producer and director, will also attend and take questions after the showing.

Micah True

The award-winning documentary tells the story of the late Micah True, a native of Boulder, Colo., who is the subject of Christopher McDougall’s 2009 bestselling book “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.”

Di Bonaventura Pictures, Outlaw Productions and LD Entertainment have already announced plans to turn the book into a feature film with McConaughey playing the lead, according to reports.

True, a proponent of bare-foot running, became a well-known runner after he traveled to Copper Canyon in Mexico in 1993 to learn the ultra long-distance running secrets of the reclusive Tarahumara Native Mexican Tribe. Some of the tribe members have been said to be able to run more than 100 miles at a time.

In 2003, True created the 50-mile Copper Canyon Ultra-Marathon to honor the Tarahumara’s running feats and attract attention to their community. The race still attracts hundreds to the village of Urique to compete alongside and cheer on some of the world’s best distance runners.

A unique aspect of the race is the prize: finishers are awarded 500 pounds of corn. Traditionally, the runners usually donate it back to the Tarahumara in the spirit of “kórima,” or sharing. Top finishers also receive cash prizes.

True’s spirit of kórima and his running prowess made him something of a local legend to the Tarahumara, said Noren, who first met True in 2009. It is why he earned the nickname “Caballo Blanco,” which means “White Horse."

“We wanted to tell the story of Micah True in a way that was exciting and authentic, so that viewers could get a sense of what an amazing and inspiring person he was,” said Noren, who now resides in Seattle.

“Micah’s vision lives on, and his legacy is honored in this film. The film shares Micah’s compelling message of love, hope and kórima with the world, while helping sustain the people and culture that meant so much to him. We’re honored to be part of this project and are committed to keeping Micah’s mission alive.”

Big heart

In March 2012, True failed to return from a run in the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico. Some friends recovered his body on a deserted canyon trail several days later. An autopsy revealed that the 58-year-old True had idiopathic cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease that results in the heart enlarging beyond healthy size.

The White Horse literally died, because his heart was too big.

“Micah’s genuine passion for honoring the sacred running traditions of the Tarahumara people was the essence of his being,” said Maria Walton, who was True’s girlfriend at the time of his passing and served as executive producer of the film.

“We made this film to share Micah’s vision of hope for the Tarahumara culture and empower people everywhere with his joy of running.”

Most of the material for the 90-minute documentary had already been recorded during the 2012 race, which was only a short time before True’s death.


The film has received numerous awards: the Award of Excellence from the IndieFEST Film Awards; the 2015 Bud Greenspan Memorial Film and Video Award, presented by the Track & Field Writers of America; and the Best Documentary at the 2015 Arizona International Film Festival.


A percentage of the film’s profits, including DVD sales, will support Norawas de Rarámuri, or Friends of the Running People, True’s nonprofit that aims to preserve traditional Tarahumara culture.

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