Skip to main content

Ultramarathoner Micah True died from heart disease

Ultra-marathon runner Micah True died from heart disease while on a routine 12-mile run in late March in the mountains of southwestern New Mexico, according to an autopsy report released Tuesday.

The report showed that True, 58, had cardiomyopathy, a disease that results in the heart becoming enlarged. While medical examiners couldn't point to the cause of the heart disease, they said True's left ventricle, which pumps oxygenated blood to the rest of the body, had become thick and was dilated.

Chemical tests showed that True was mildly dehydrated and had caffeine in his system. He also had some abrasions on his elbows, forearms, knees and shins.

True's body was discovered March 31 along a stream in a remote part of the Gila Wilderness. The search for him began days earlier after he failed to return from a run. Friends had theorized that he stopped at the stream to wash up after a fall while running on the rugged terrain.

True's girlfriend, Maria Walton of Gilbert, Ariz., has said he was hypoglycemic. She said last month that without proper nutrition, "he would get dizzy or feel lightheaded. Not anything life endangering."

A disciplined eater, True would occasionally splurge and drink two beers between the hours of 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. when he wasn't running, Walton said. When friends would ask him if he had a vice, he would answer: "Vanilla ice cream," that Walton said came from a small market near where he died.

Remembered as a legend and an inspiration among runners, True, nicknamed "Caballo Blanco," was known for his big smile and infectious love of running.

He had been involved in ultra-marathons for years, but it wasn't until he became friends with the indigenous Tarahumara of northern Mexico that the direction of his life came into sharp focus. The Tarahumara are known for their extreme running prowess.

True would spend much of the year living among the Tarahumara, or Raramuri, as they are also known. It was in the canyons where True got rid of his running shoes, put on a pair of sandals and learned to run the way the Tarahumara do - easy, light and smooth.

True founded the 50-mile-plus Copper Canyon race and directed it for the last several years to highlight the Tarahumara's culture and their love for running. This year had marked a record turnout for the grueling event, which sends participants, many wearing only sandals made of discarded tires, plunging into deep canyons and across mountains and rivers.

Friends said that True was healthy, so his death came as a surprise.

"This is a guy who could set out with a little bag of ground corn, a bottle of water in his hand and be gone all day. The day before he died, he did a six-hour run," said Chris McDougall, a friend of True and author of "Born to Run." The book chronicles True's efforts to develop the Copper Canyon race and draw international attention to the Tarahumara way of life and their love of running.