Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Running America, with Marshall Ulrich

A few weeks ago, I posted a review of Marshall Ulrich's book, Running on Empty, the bulk of which covered his record-breaking coast-to-coast run.  Running America, a documentary about his run, presents a very different perspective from the book, visually capturing the trials and logistical challenges of such an attempt.

As Ulrich discusses in the book, he started this attempt not as a solo effort but with Charlie Engle, another ultrarunner with a long and impressive running resume.  Charlie dropped after a couple weeks, but stayed with the crew, riding his bike, speaking at several stops and participating with the crew.  Ulrich pressed on, completing the run in 52 and a half days.
Since Charlie was a main impetus behind the film--he had earlier done a film about his run across the Sahara with 2 other runners, Running the Sahara--he remained a focus of the film, even though he wasn't running anymore.  In Ulrich's book, Ulrich talks about the tensions with Charlie and the crew; that's not portrayed in the movie.  It's probably best not to immortalize that on film. . . .

The movie does have a positive spin that doesn't really come through in the book.  Shot during the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, the film spends a lot of time on a "one America" theme, interviewing onlookers and passers-by about being American.  This part didn't add much to the movie for me, and not only because I believe the result of the 2008 election was ultimately destructive for the U.S., but I would rather have focused on the physical demands and logistical details of Ulrich's run.

That criticism aside, Running America is a compelling story and a visual treat.  Runners will like it, and some non-runners might be inspired to get up and go.  We can't all run across the U.S., but we can all run farther than we think we can.

No comments:

Post a Comment