chasing Caballo Blanco

From “Born to Run”—

…We had set out in the hills behind Creel, on a rocky, pine-needled trail climbing through the woods. We’d been running for less than ten minutes and already I was dying for air. It’s not that Caballo is so fast; it’s just that he seems so light, as though he wills himself uphill by mind power instead of muscle.

He turned and trotted back down. “Okay, man, lesson one. Get right behind me.” He started to jog, more slowly this time, and I tried to copy everything he did. My arms floated until my hands were rib-high; my stride chopped down to pitty-pat steps; my back straightened so much I could almost hear the vertebrae creaking.

“Don’t fight the trail,” Caballo called back over his shoulder. “Take what it gives you. If you have a choice between one step or two between rocks, take three.” Caballo has spent so many years navigating the trails, he’s even nicknamed the stones beneath his feet: some are ayudantes, the helpers which let you spring forward with power; others are “tricksters,” which look like ayudantes but roll treacherously at takeoff; and some are chingoncitos, little bastards just dying to lay you out.

“Lesson two,” Caballo called. “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 give a shit 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 practicing, 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.”

I kept my eyes on Caballo’s sandaled feet, trying to duplicate his odd, sort of tippy-toeing steps. I had my head down so long, I didn’t notice at first that we’d left the forest.

Wow!” I exclaimed. (p. 110-111)

I’ve been working on following Caballo’s lessons since reading the book in January. Now I’m ready for trails that are no longer covered by snow and ice. Maybe I’ll even be able to find some mountains to run up before long. That might be a tough task considering where I live, but we’ve all got personal mountains that need summiting, right? I’m feeling like I can run through more challenges than ever before in my life. It’s not about running away, it’s about running straight through adversity. And life is chock full of adversity just like any good, challenging run. It’s been a long time coming, but running is becoming a truly meditative full-body, mind and spirit practice for me. I don’t mean to overstate its importance, but God’s been out there running with me all winter and I’m going to do all I can to keep up!