I am going to make something abundantly clear from the outset of this review – I have no intention of running an ultra. Ever. I know I once said that about marathons and I’m now contemplating one of those but this is different. Ultras are a whole other level of craziness beyond the general craziness of running. I can now happily view 21km as something fun to do on a Sunday morning but the idea of putting in twice that….just for a training run?! No.
I do, however, hold a great deal of respect and admiration for those who do run ultras. And so, when I was looking for something inspiring to watch, I stumbled across the documentary ‘Desert Runners‘ and found myself mesmerised.
Desert Runners is the story of a band of runners who decide not just to run an ultra but to compete in the Four Desert Grand Slam. This consists of four events in one year across some of the toughest terrain you can imagine – the Atacama Desert in Chile, Gobi Desert in China, the Sahara event Namibia (as of 2016 due to political instability in North Africa) and, finally, Antarctica. Each event covers 250km in 7 days. Just take that in for a moment – 250km across a desert in 7 days. The marathon I am contemplating is 42.2km through Disneyworld. Hmm. Enough said.
Aside from the immense scale of this event, what I loved about the documentary was the people and their stories. Over the last few years of running and volunteering at parkrun, I’ve found a universal truth about runners – we’re really all very similar. Whether you’re running a 40 minute 5km, an 18 minute 5km or a 7 day 250km across a dry, barren desert, you have many of the same thoughts, hopes and dreams. Not wanting to get injured (and then furiously trying to ignore it and pretend it isn’t there when you do). Just wanting to finish. Feeling amazing when you cross a finish line. Bonding with your fellow runners over blisters, running gear and war stories. The participants in the Four Deserts would be just as at home at my local parkrun and I found them easy to identify with as the story unfolded.
So, if you’re looking for some inspiration or want to some fodder for your family and friends when they say you’re mad for running as much as you do, this one is a ‘must watch’.