When it comes to sporting events, we’re at no loss of footage. Instant replay, slow motion, high definition, every play of every NFL game at our fingertips, and so on … we have a lot. With respect to a somewhat niche sport of distance running in general, we usually have to settle for Diamond League track meet coverage, large urban city marathons, and the Olympics – each of which is very hit-and-miss with competent commentating. Take it to another level of “niche” sports in the world of trail ultra-running and you’re left with very grass roots coverage – think blogs, personal video / pictures, tweeting, results links, etc. which is actually preferable to most involved keeping the sport “pure” and/or natural feeling.
All that said, “Unbreakable – The Western States 100″ by Journey Film breaks the mold providing an incredible full length documentary on one of the greatest elite fields assembled at one of the most iconic 100 mile trail races in history. More than simple running footage with splits and athlete placement along the way, this film rings true to their production title and brings you along for the thrilling journey from Squaw Valley to Auburn. A perfect balance of having a professional production crew yet keeping the grassroots and natural spirit of trail running. Incredible cinematography of what only the runners encounter along the high country, single track trail descents through the canyons, and crossing the American River were themselves enough to keep this Midwestern distance runner (born & raised in Wisconsin / currently residing in Iowa) on the edge of my seat with my heart pounding and mind flashing back to my younger days growing up in Golden, Colorado ages 4 – 9. Amidst the incredible landscapes and nature-filled running footage, the personal stories of each top contender’s lifestyle and training was what will capture your attention to the very end.
The significance of this race at the top level was unprecedented – 4 elite ultra marathoners never facing each other in 100 miles before this 2010 running. That seemed to be the only thing they had in common as each of them shared their own background, strengths, training methods, and lifestyle. Hal Koerner – 2-time defending champ with an upbeat and infectious personality owns a running store in Oregon. Geoff Roes – an introverted and insightful organic chef from Alaska undefeated in 100 miles. Anton Krupicka – a charismatic graduate student enjoying the pure essence of running mountains and undefeated in any ultra marathon distance. Killian Jornet – a humble and quiet mountain runner / skier from Spain with trekking experience since he was in diapers comes to the USA ultra scene for the first time.
What I enjoyed the most about seeing each of the athletes progress through the course is you never really knew what kind of day each would have until the race progressed – very similar to distance running in general. You never REALLY know if you’ll be running average, fighting through a bad patch, blowing up, or having the race of your life until you’re in those moments. Out of the four featured experienced elite’s, it seemed to be on par with the chances of how any given season or build up might turn out … two running very well and executing, one fighting through some injury trauma, and another blowing up. I won’t spoil anything for those that haven’t seen it because the drama and unfolding of the race continues right until the very end … do yourself a favor and find out by watching it!
Ok, obviously ultra / trail runners are going to really dig this film … as I mentioned before, it truly captures the essence and spirit of running through the woods for 100 miles. I challenge any fitness enthusiast – track/road runners, swimmers, triathletes, mountain bikers, road bikers, skiers, mountaineers, climbers, etc. – to indulge in the journey of elite ultra / trail running. I’m a self-declared running nerd but have been pounding out training and racing on the roads and track since college and couldn’t have enjoyed this more as I look forward to an ultra debut (trail 50km) in a few weeks and explore more in 2013/2014. I’ve re-watched it a few times just for the mountain trail running footage alone (remember …… I live in Iowa ….. IOWA!!!!).