This wasn’t Caballo. There was no Caballo. The whole thing was a hoax, and I’d fallen for it.
Then the cadaver spoke. “You know me?”
“Man!” I exploded, scrambling to my feet. “Am I glad to see you!”
The smile vanished. The cadaver’s eyes darted toward the door, making it clear that in anothersecond, he would as well.
IT ALL BEGAN with a simple question that no one could answer.
It was a five-word puzzle that led me to a photo of a very fast man in a very short skirt, and fromthere it only got stranger. Soon, I was dealing with a murder, drug guerrillas, and a one-armed manwith a cream-cheese cup strapped to his head. I met ranger who slippedout of her clothes and found salvation by running naked in the Idaho forests, and a young surferbabe in pigtails who ran straight toward her death in the desert. A talented young runner would die.
Two others would barely escape with their lives.
I kept looking, and stumbled across the Barefoot Batman … Naked Guy … Kalahari Bushmen …the Toenail Amputee … a cult devoted to distance running and sex parties … the Wild Man of theBlue Ridge Mountains … and, ultimately, the ancient tribe of the Tarahumara and their shadowydisciple, Caballo Blanco.
In the end, I got my answer, but only after I found myself in the middle of the greatest race theworld would see: the Ultimate Fighting Competition of footraces, an undergroundshowdownpittingso(never) me of the best ultradistance runners of our time against the best ultrarunnersof all time, in a fifty-mile race on hidden trails only Tarahumara feet had ever touched. I’d bestartled to discover that the ancient saying of the Tao Te Ching—“The best runner leaves notracks”— wasn’t some gossamer koan, but real, concrete, how-to, training advice.