5 Trail-Running Films To Motivate Your Miles

Every now and then, even the most dedicated runners can find themselves in a slump. When it happens to me, one of my favorite things to do is watch a trail-running film to inspire me to head outdoors. Here are five of my favorites.

February 5, 2016
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I am a runner through and through.

I make a living both writing about running and teaching people how to run. I run during my free time, I save up money to buy running-related gear, and I surround myself with other runners. It is pretty safe to say that I love running. And I truly, truly do…

…except for some days when I hate running.

Yes, believe it or not, even the most dedicated and diehard runners have days when they just don’t want to run. And if you are like me, a non-elite runner who isn’t getting paid to win races, it’s okay to have days when you just don’t want to run. But sometimes those days come one right after another, and before you know it, you are on a long non-running streak, seriously lacking the motivation to lace up your running shoes.

When that happens to me, I often reach for external sources of motivation. One of my favorite things to do is to watch a trail-running movie or documentary. Without fail, the feats of the runners in the film inspire me to push my own boundaries, and the breathtaking trails, mountains, and views leave me itching to get outdoors and discover my own local trails. 

Here are five of my recent favorite films:

The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young

Nothing gets me more motivated than the idea of doing a really insane, crazy race. And the Barkley Marathons is nothing short of crazy and insane. There is no official race date. No known start time. No website. The application process is a secret. And in the nearly 30-year history of the race, only 15 people have finished. Yet despite being ranked as one of the hardest races on the planet, the elusive 120-mile Barkley Marathons draws runners from across the globe.

3022 ft.

Imagine a 3,022-foot elevation gain over 1.5 miles, followed by a 3,022 elevation loss as you run 1.5 miles back to the start. That’s what you get when you run the Mt. Marathon race in Seward, Alaska. Average speed uphill is 2 mph. Average speed downhill is 12 mph. It is not uncommon for racers to cross the finish line injured or bleeding and covered in mud. This documentary will get your heart pumping as you watch runners barreling down the rocky terrain at breakneck (almost literally) speeds.

Western Time

In the short film “Western Time,” Sally McRae, an elite ultra runner and mother, runs the prestigious Western States 100-mile race for the first time. Her story and her training efforts leading up to the race, as well as the race day itself, are relatable and heart-wrenching. You can’t help but cheer her on. Plus, the views of the Western States course are absolutely stunning and will make you want to head out into the woods for your own gorgeous views and deep breaths of fresh air.

Desert Runners

Some people have a goal to run a race in all 50 states. Others, a goal to run a race on all 7 continents. But some runners take this challenge to a new extreme. In the film “Desert Runners,” four runners from across the globe are followed as they attempt to complete the 4 Deserts ultramarathon series. The runners must complete races through the four most treacherous deserts in the world: the Atacama Desert in Chile, the Gobi Desert in China, the Sahara in Egypt, and Antarctica, all in one calendar year.

Finding Traction

In this documentary, elite ultra runner Nikki Kimball makes an attempt to become the fastest person in history to run America’s oldest hiking trail, the 273-mile Long Trail in Vermont. As a Vermonter myself, I may be partial to the breathtaking views. As a runner, I appreciate the raw honesty in Nikki’s emotions as her experience unfolds. Breaking records certainly doesn’t come without sacrifice, emotional heartache, and physical pain.

If those five films don’t muster up some motivation to get you outside and running a few (or many) miles…well, then put on your shoes and go for a run anyway. Because the only run you ever regret is the one you didn’t take. 

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