TOP 10: Trail- and Ultrarunning Films


by Sabine


For runners, this winter is a very special one. There's next to no racing. We still have to practice social distancing. Some of us have to quarantine at home. Above all, workout motivation is waning. 

Here comes the solution: Start your own trailrunning film festival at home. Which films? We have put together a TOP 10 list of trail- and ultrarunning films. Whether you watch them from your treadmill or from your sofa - they will bring back some adrenaline and excitement. 

If you want to see more films, go an have a look at our film archive. You'll find hundreds of entries - from short films to full feature length productions. Enjoy!


10. Golden Trail Championships

2020 was a very special year. No Golden Trail Series - but at least a Championship. In a way it was the race of the year.

Golden Trail Championship 2020 - A Strategic Battle - The Movie


9. Via Alpina

The "Via Alpina" runs through the entire Alps from Trieste in the east to Monaco in the west: 2650 kilometers with around 150,000 meters of altitude. French runner Guillaume Arthus took on this epic adventure. In the end, it took him a good 44 days - setting a new record on the way.

This film (French with English subtitles) is available on Vimeo from EUR 3.99.

Via Alpina by Peignée Verticale

8. Rim To Rim To Rim Alternate | A Grand Canyon Adventure

The Grand Canyon R2R2R has become an FKT classic. The vast majority of canyon crossings take place on the well-maintained "corridor trails". At the bottom: two suspension bridges spanning the Colorado. It looks quite different about 30 miles further west: There are the north and south Bass Trails, both leading into the canyon from the respective rim. However, these trails date from the late 19th century and are nowhere near as well preserved as the corridor trails. Above all: There is no way to cross the Colorado on dry feet. At the end of 2018, Coconino Cowboys Jim Walmsley, Tim Freriks and Eric Senseman tackled this R2R2R alternate.

  Rim To Rim To Rim Alternate | A Grand Canyon Adventure by Jamil Coury

7. The Grand Round

John Kelly, Barkley Finisher # 15, found a new playground after moving to the UK. After winning the Spine Race and after setting an FKT on the Pennine Trail he asks himself: "What's next"? There are these classic "rounds" - Paddy Buckley, Bob Graham, Charlie Ramsay ... and then there are hundreds of miles between those rounds, that he wants to cover with his bike. He had already tried last year - and failed. This year he tries again ...

The Gran Round by The Run Show

6. Wall Run

Philipp Reiter and a team of German runners from East and West come together to run 1400 km along the former wall that divided their country: The barrier that used to separate people from one another. This barrier shows how important it is to build bridges in our world, not borders. (German with English subtitles)

Wall Run by Salomon TV

5. The Human Bean

Australian filmmaker, activist and runner Beau Miles is known for his self-experiments. The most recent of these experiments is based on a novel by John Steinbeck. Beau Miles adheres to a special diet for 40 days: Beans only. He eats his own body weight in beans. At the same time he is training for an ultra marathon, the Lumberjack Ultra, which he also wants to complete exclusively "on beans". Fortunately this video doesn't come with "digital smell" technology.

The Human Bean by Beau Miles

4. Running the Wainwrights

Last summer, Irishman Paul Tierney tackled a tough challenge: He crossed all 214 "Wainwrights",  the 214 peaks in the Lake District National Park that Alfred Wainwright listed in his books "Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells". The map of the route in and of itself looks impressive. The bare numbers: 512 kilometers (318 miles), 36000 meters (118000 feet) of vert. It took Tierney 6 days, 6 hours and 5 minutes. Dave McFarlane has put together a very worth seeing film - fellrunners like Nicky Spinks, Joss Naylor and Steve Birkinshaw comment on Tierney's feat, and the landscape shots are phenomenal.

Running the Wainwrights by Dave MacFarlane

3. Out There: A Journey to the Barkley Marathons

This is the story of Belgian ultrarunner Karel Sabbe, who holds the world records on two of the most epic trails in the world: the 4279km long Pacific Crest Trail and the 3500km long Appalachian Trail. How did setting these world records prepare Karel for a race as brutal as "the Barkley"? Out There is a story of persistence, endurance and a passion for the great outdoors.

Out There: A Journey to the Barkley Marathons by Fabien Duflos

2. Finding the Limit: Big Backyard

The concept seems almost too simple: Runners have an hour to complete a 4.166667-mile trail loop during the day and a road loop at night. The loops repeat until there is one runner left, so having a plan of not quitting almost guarantees victory. - In 2019, dozens of runners congregate at Big's Backyard Ultra, a last-man-standing race developed by the infamous Gary Cantrell AKA Lazarus Lake. This race format has experienced a real success story and has become a World Championship. "Finding the Limit" tells the story of the 2019 race.

Finding the Limit: Big Backyard by Trailbear Films

1. Transamericana

“It has become so easy to live in different bubbles”. Says Ultrarunner Rickey Gates. Rickey is able to run fast, but he often slows down in order to have time for adventure and personal encounters. In 2017, after Donald Trump took office, he embarked on a run across the United States - from South Carolina to California. Not on the most direct route, not as an FKT attempt. Rather, he wanted experience his country, a country that is torn in the middle. "How can we even discuss if we don't know anyone who disagrees?" Just as he opened up his microcosm with “Every Single Street”, in his “Transamericana” project he opened up the macrocosm of his own largely unknown country. This film created by Dean Leslie is a real masterpiece.

Transamericana by Dean Leslie


And finally there is one bonus film. I had finished the TOP 10 list when Billy Yang announced the release of his long-awaited film:  


Zach Miller burst onto the ultrarunning scene with a stunning and surprising win at the 2013 JFK 50 Mile Race. Since then, he's gone on to race in some of the biggest international mountain ultramarathons in the world. His head-to-head race against Hayden Hawks at the North Face 50 is unforgettable. After a win at the CCC 2015 he came back the following year to get the UTMB right. Since then he returned every year with the aim to become the first American to win this race. His signature racing style is reminiscent of Steve Prefontaine: Going out hard, leading from the front - either to win the race or to crash and burn on the way to the finish line. What drives him? How are his roots back home in Pennsylvania influencing him and his running? And why is trying to conquer the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc against some of the best competitors in the world?

ZACH by Billy Yang Films