TOP 10 - Trail and Ultra Films 2019

by Sabine

As with previous years, in 2019 hardly a month passed without at least a handfull of new trail- and ultrarunning films being released. Our film database lists more than 50 entries released in 2019 - both documntaries and short films. Included are the usual commercials of the big trailrunning brands. There are also lots of short race videos - almost every renowned race and race series nowadays publishes a short documentary. Many of these films show great nature shots, they are motivating and nice. But to a certain extent they become redundant.

So, was there any films that really impressed me? Yes of course. Here is my TOP 10 list:

10. Last Woman Standing: The Barkley Marathons (Elli & Matt Green)

In 2019, breast cancer survivor Nicky Spinks attempted to become the first-ever woman to complete The Barkley Marathons - the world's toughest ultra-running race. This film tells the story of Nicky, and her fellow female runners, as they battle treacherous terrain, wild weather and the twisted mind of Barkley Marathons organiser, Lazarus Lake.


9. Thabang (Dean Leslie)

Trailrunning brings together very different people with different backgrounds. Is that really the case? In the USA, it is frequently discussed that trailrunners are a rather homogeneous section of the population: White, middle class and above all: runners from the so-called "First World", the wealthy industrial nations. There are reasons for this. Above all, there are hardly any role models outside this "white, middle class, first world" that are key as condensation nuclei for a movement. This could change in South Africa: with Thabang Madiba. He originates from a township in the countryside. And he lives for his sport: trail running.

8. Nolan's 14 (Matt Trappe)

Joe Grant was looking for an experience. He wanted it to be hard, and he wanted to push himself to “that edge” where he’d have to make difficult decisions. That’s why he chose Nolan’s 14 - a rowdy jaunt through Colorado’s Sawatch range, which links 14 14,000-foot mountains over 100 miles. Needless to say, Joe found what he was looking for, and in the process, set the unsupported record for the route. This is his story.


7. Heavy as Lead (Marc LeBlanc)

There are many stories following the pattern „from fat to fit“ or „from couch potato to marathon runner. But going from 135kg to being a marathon runner? With Jason Cohen, the change was gradual - even his wife and friends hardly noticed that he was gaining more and more weight. Eventually he hit 135kg - 300 pounds! This number made Jason change his mind - or better: it got him moving. Seven years later - in 2018 - Jason toed the line at Leadville 100. He had lost more than 50kg! The film by Marc LeBlanc follows Jason's transformation.

6. Kungsleden (Pep Cuberes / Philipp Reiter)

In 2018, Emelie Forsberg went back to her homeland to attempt a Fastest Known Time in the Kungsleden Trail, a hiking trail in the Swedish Lapland that boasts spectacular wilderness and is usually crossed by hikers in no less than 15 days. She completed the 450km trail in 4 days and 21 hours, beating the current FKT, held since 2017.

5. The Source (Dream Lens Media LLC)

The Source is a documentary film that explores elite ultra runner Courtney Dauwalter's source of will. How does the candy-loving, beer drinking athlete crush 200+ mile races, in some cases, beating all the men and the women? The film gives viewers a front row seat as Courtney races the Tahoe 200 and lends insight. Where is her demon?

4. Every Single Street (Dean Leslie)

Rickey Gates decided to run every single street in San Francisco - to get to know a very small area of America, as well as its people, intimately. With over 1100 Miles of street the film documents Rickey’s journey, and the people he meets long the way, as he runs into midst of one of the most iconic and diverse cities in the world.

Every Single Street from Wandering Fever on Vimeo.

3. Par for the Course (Kody Kohlman)  

What defines a Trailrunner? Is it the body? We focus on it by training and nutrition. This focus on the body may give us a clear picture of what a trailrunner looks like: Slim, athletic, not a gram of fat. This is even more true for skyrunning, because the trails are steeper, higher and harder. Mirna Valerio aka Mirnavator doesn't match this stereotype at all. She wonders: When do we think that we belong somewhere, that we are in the right place? When we see other people that have something in common with us. That's why at some point she decided to encourage other people. By doing what she likes most: Running! She wants to show that everyone can shift their individual limits. No, she really doesn't have the best conditions, has to carry much more weight over the 26k and 1800 meters of incline than most other runners at Broken Arrow Skyrace. And of course she is slower. But she gives her best - with HER body, with HER abilities. Running gives her the experience: We are so much more than our body. The sky is not the limit - your mind is.

PAR FOR THE COURSE - Mirna Valerio at Broken Arrow Sky Race 2019 from Broken Arrow Skyrace on Vimeo.

2. The Double Paddy Buckley Round (Summit Fever Media)

Nicky Spinks - cancer survivor and fell runner extraordinaire. She has already bagged doubles of the Bob Graham round and the Charlie Ramsay round. In May 2019 she attempted her third double round: The Paddy Buckley.
This film can be obtained on Vimeo on Demand.

The Double Paddy Buckley Round from Summit Fever Media on Vimeo.

1. Leadman (Matt Trappe, Billy Yang)

On May 23, 2015, the unimaginable happened to runner Dave Mackey on a routine training run. At the summit of Bear Peak, a giant boulder became dislodged sending Mackey tumbling down the mountain before it also landed on him crushing his left leg. After a series of unsuccessful surgeries over the next year plus to get back to normal, he and his family made the difficult decision to amputate. This is his story about perseverance and coming back from the injury to attempting to complete the Leadville Race Series to become the first ever leg amputee to call himself a "Leadman".

LEADMAN: The Dave Mackey Story - FULL FILM from NINE MIND on Vimeo.

What was your favorite movie in 2019? Which film from this list impressed you the most? Do you have a favourite that I have not listed here?

By the way: You will find more films in our film archive. And if your favourite film is not listed there - just shoot me an e-mail. The archive will be updated and extended on a regular basis.