I have transitioned from reading tons of running books to watching running documentaries. I think it’s because I have so much academic reading this semester that when I take a break from doing homework and studying, I don’t really want to read a whole lot more, so I resort to watching running films. Last week I watched Dean Karnazes documentary about his 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states. This week I watched “Running on the Sun,” a film about the Badwater 135 ultra marathon.
I had rented a different running movie to watch, from the library because I am cool like that, but decided to watch the “Running on the Sun.” I found it on Youtube so I watched it on my computer last night! It is 99 minutes long and usually I get restless and can’t sit through movies, especially ones on Youtube, but this one was pretty decent and I wanted to keep watching. This is the link in case you want to watch it… and if you are able to read German, there are German subtitles, ha!
“Running on the Sun” follows a few runners while they compete in one of the toughest running races in the world – the Badwater 135. Dean Karnazes has done this race 7 times, finishing 6 times, as once he had to drop out. I kind of wished he was in this film because he is awesome, but this was filmed in one of the years he didn’t run it. The people that were in the film however; are equally as insane as Karnazes. This ultra marathon, all 135 miles of it, is in Death Valley. Why anyone would voluntarily run a race in a place with “DEATH” in the name is beyond me. Beginning below sea level, runners have to run 135 miles to the finish, running up and down mountains, in crazy hot temperatures. Only a fraction of the people who begin the race actually finish it.
I was genuinely surprised at the type of people who were featured in this film. The ones who did extremely well were all about as big as a toothpick. I don’t know how they didn’t get blown over by the wind let alone run 135 miles in less than 30 hours in torturous conditions. One woman, Lisa Smith, has now done the race 10 times, but was disqualified in this particular race for having to receive an IV medical treatment. One man, Chris Moon, finished the race with one prosthetic leg and one prosthetic arm, after his two limbs were blown off by a land mind in Africa. Another man who finished was SIXTY FOUR years old! His wife was part of his support crew and taped a beer to the support vehicle for the last part of the race so he could just focus on running to the beer… it was hilarious! It was interesting to see the type of people who run this race and why they do it.
The film was really good at showing how insane the entire Badwater experience is. From showing the preparation of some runners, who run in saunas with heavy clothes on and with dryer vents pointed towards them, to showing everything the runner endures during the race – the documentary captures it all. I was amazed at the preparation of the support crews for each runner, especially the experienced ones, who knew how to prepare for the race. Many runners had two-vehicle teams that would tag team along the road, yet one woman had ONE man as her support and almost didn’t make it because of that. No, the support crews don’t have to run 135 miles like the runners, but they endure a whole heck of a lot as well, from running beside the runners to keep them on pace or on track, to forcing them to eat and drink, to taping up feet and shoes, to monitoring the bodies of their runner, to providing medical treatment and emotional support. It is crazy! I have no desire to run the Badwater 135, but I have even less desire to be support for someone running the race 😉