Up mountainsides, through deserts and the wildest of rugged terrain, there was little that could break the serenity or solitude of Micah True as he ran. Only, perhaps, the pounding beat of his heart or the rhythm of his feet as they hit the trail, mile after mile after mile.
For True, running -- the pure act of running relentlessly and running far -- was a passion that needed no justification. To those who knew him well, it also brought forth an intense playfulness in the 58-year-old ultra-marathon runner.
"When he was out on the trail running, it was like someone just rang the school bell and said, 'Recess.' It was utter playfulness," recalled Chris McDougall, a friend of True's and author of the nonfiction best-seller "Born to Run."
True's body was discovered Saturday evening in a remote part of southern New Mexico's Gila Wilderness. The search began after he failed to return Tuesday from a 12-mile run.
His body was found near a cold stream, his legs still in the water and his water bottle next to him, about a mile southeast of the Gila Cliff Dwellings.
The cause of death wasn't known Sunday. There were no obvious signs of trauma, and State Police Lt. Robert McDonald said it could take a couple of days before authorities know what happened.
But word of his death spread immediately through the community of runners, both amateur and accomplished, some of whom view True as an inspiration, a reason they took up the sport. Friends and admirers also posted condolences and shared fond memories on social networking sites of a man who, by nearly all accounts, was a truly memorable person.
Barry Anderson, a manager at Runner's Den in Phoenix, said the sport would miss True greatly.
"He was both an international running celebrity and the first person to smile and shake your hand when you crossed the finish line behind him," Anderson wrote. "The fact that so many people from all over the country dropped everything and immediately went to his aid is testimony to the way he lived his life and the way he himself treated his friends."
True was the race director of the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon, a 50-plus mile race that took place in Urique, Mexico.
True was featured in articles in running magazines and was a key character -- known by his nickname, "Caballo Blanco" -- in McDougall's "Born to Run."