Ultra Running Movies and Reviews

Over the past few weeks I watched several ultra running movies. You can find a list of great running movies at this site.

Here are the movies I had the privilege to watch:
"Dancing the Bear": http://www.runningmovies.com/title/DancingTheBear.htm
"Running the Sahara": http://www.runningmovies.com/title/RunningTheSahara.htm
"Running America": http://www.runningmovies.com/title/RunningAmerica.htm
"IL Corridore": http://www.runningmovies.com/title/IlCorridore.htm
"Indulgence" http://www.runningmovies.com/title/Indulgence.htm
"A Lecture on Ultra Running by Michael Arnstein" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vce-pVYIjx8
"Unbreakable" http://www.ws100film.com/

"Dancing the Bear"
I watched this movie for the first time in 2009. It is a movie that chronicles a number of runners as the prepare for and run the Bear 100 in Utah and Idaho http://www.bear100.com/. It was a good motivational movie in that I was blown away at how people pushed through adversity and injury to finish a 100 mile race. It was also the first movie that really opened my eyes to what ultra running is. Long days of training, conditioning the body to run for hours on end, eating and digesting while running, running through the night, pacers, aid stations, blisters and lost toenails. Compared to the other movies its production quality, story line and suspense aren't as compelling but for any ultra running enthusiast I still recommend it. The movie also reveals the loneliness of ultra running and peaked into the small and close knit community of ultra runners. An ultra runner has to look within for support and motivation. An ultra runner must dig deep. The ultra running routes are not lined with thousands of spectators like every major city marathon in North America.

"Running the Sahara"
This was the second ultra running movie I watched about three ultra runners (Kevin Lin, Charlie Engle and Ray Zahab) who band together to run across the Sahara desert from the Atlantic ocean on the western coast to the Red Sea in Egypt. The production quality was impressive and Matt Damon's narration was riveting. While I was intrigued with the running challenge the movie also drew me into the water issues in Africa. This movie also turned me into a huge fan of Ray Zahab and his Impossible to Possible organization: http://impossible2possible.com/home. I absolutely loved the scenery and Ray's comments on the sweet smell of the Sahara reminded me of my visit to Cairo and the pyramids in 1995. There is a distinct scent that one never forgets. Northern Africans are also so kind and welcoming. This aspect of their culture came across very well in the movie. Of course, the movie conveyed the extreme running challenge Charlie, Kevin and Ray had every day. Running two marathons a day for 111 days is an amazing feat and I can't imagine how their bodies fared over that time. It really does make one think anything is possible and that we humans can achieve so much more.

"Running America"
The book written by Marshall Ulrich "Running on Empty" is much better. The movie was good at illustrating the logistics required to complete a run across America. Unfortunately, the movie didn't capture any romance or intrigue... one might argue that running and romance or intrigue don't go together. I disagree... running is a tumultuous love affair.

The movie did convey Marshall's incredible drive. Marshall's book is still much better at sharing the emotional struggles behind what drives him. The book also reveals that Ray Zahab coached Marshall to prepare for his run across America.

I also felt sorry for Charlie Engle's injury that prevented him from finishing the run across America. Despite Charlie's rough appearance in Running the Sahara I think he is a pretty solid guy. Charlie has had some bad luck as of late and you can get some insight into his current battles at http://charlieengle.com/

"IL Corridore" (The Runner)
Marco Olmo is an enigma. This movie, "IL Corridore" (The Runner) is a profile on the now 60 something elite ultra running athlete from Italy, Marco Olmo. Marco Olmo is the oldest winner of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc http://www.ultratrailmb.com/. Marco Olmo placed 3rd in 2005 and then went on to win the UTMB in 2006 and 2007... amazingly in his late 50s! Marco is a consummate runner and this movie exemplifies hard work, determination, and perseverance. Marco's minimalist approach running (in terms of support and entourage) is also respectable. He sets an tremendous example for me as to what could still be accomplished in running. I recommend any athlete watch this movie... not just for runners.

I absolutely love watching Anton Krupicka run. There's nothing else to say about this movie. His running style and approach to running are simply sublime. The guy loves to run and does it his own way. Here is the link to Anton's blog.http://antonkrupicka.blogspot.com/

"Lecture on Ultra Running by Michael Arnstein"
Michael Arnstein is a staunch fruitarian and he is on this profound mission to teach the world how they can be super healthy, super fit on a fruitarian diet. While the movie itself is simply Michael behind a pulpit espousing his diet, training regime, relationship management, and gear, there is still a riveting aspect to the educational insights he provides. He describes the four stages of ultra marathon running as physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. Before he describes these four stages he eloquently defines ultra running as a state of existence. If you love running you won't be sorry you spent the 75 minutes watching this lecture.

Awesome! I can watch this movie over and over. The movie is a documentary of the 2010 running of the Western States 100 ultra race, the grand daddy of modern ultra running races http://ws100.com/. Unbreakable follows four of the worlds most genuine and complete top runners, Geoff Roes, Hal Korner, Kilian Jornet and Anton Krupicka as they square off against each other. The running footage is incredibly well done. On a big screen one feels like you are right on their heels running behind them on the trail. I also really enjoyed the interviews with Gordy Ainsleigh, the first runner and founder of the Western States 100 Ultra Running Race.

The four runners are so affable and accessible. One can't help but immediately like them. Each has their own, unique approach to running and philosophy. I especially liked the juxtaposition in the movie of the last dinners before the race. The first scene shows Hal Koerner with his entourage enjoying a great meal in a nice restaurant and the next scene shows Geoff Roes at his camp site with his cooking stove preparing his own meal of pasta and tomato sauce. 
JB Benna, the Unbreakable film maker has a long CV of great movies and is himself an accomplished ultra runner. His site ishttp://www.journeyfilm.com/.

Enjoy the movies! 


Derrick said…
Have only seen Running the Sahara and Indulgence from your list, but look forward to checking out the others. Just reading Running America now.

Got our copy of Unbreakable yesterday and watching it tonight.

The Runner, featuring David Horton's PCT run is very good too.

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