Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Running on the Sun

Given the choice, I'd much rather run than watch something about running -- but a few nights ago, a real treat surfaced at the top of our Netflix queue that I'd like to recommend. Running on the Sun is a documentary by Emmy-winning producer Mel Stuart, detailing the running of the 1999 Badwater Ultramarathon. The film follows several of the runners from start to finish, and along the way you get a real sense of just how grueling this race really is (and 1999's race was relatively mild, weather-wise, so it makes you wonder just how awful it is on a hot year!)

The scenery is gorgeous -- it's hard, after all, to film an ugly shot on the road between Badwater and Mount Whitney Portal -- but the runners are truly what makes this film extraordinary. Eric Clifton, the race winner (and course record-breaker) is beautiful to watch; his stride looks effortless and smooth. Gabriel Flores, who won the previous year with a record-breaking time, is back again to try to break his record. His crew is wonderful; his brothers cheer him on and keep him going during the last few miles. Jack Denness, a humorous Brit, is crewed by his wife, Mags, who at one point straps a pint of stout to the car, like a "carrot" to motivate her "donkey" to finish the race.

The characters running Badwater are every bit as colorful as the scenery -- but the crew assisting the runners are great too, and (for the most part) patient and attentive to their runners. At one point, a crew member says, waiting for his runner to arrive at a checkpoint, "You know what 'Crew' stands for, right? 'Cranky Runner, Endless Waiting.'" It's a joke anyone who has spent any time around ultra-runners will understand.

I highly recommend this film, both to runners out there and their non-running friends and family. It's entertaining, compelling, and reminds you that you're not the only crazy person out there who would run 100 miles (or more) for the fun of it.

See you on the trail!
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