(Blog Related) Movie Review – Desert Runners

My blog is not turning into a book or movie review blog but I do like to tell you about things that are related to my blog’s theme. Periodically I’ll review running, outdoorsy, fitness, or travel books and movies.

Being on a Dean Karnazes kick, there was mention somewhere (maybe I saw it on his website) about the movie “Desert Runners.” I think I might have misunderstood because I thought the movie was about him doing the desert marathons. It’s not. While he does have a 30-minute segment in the special features, the movie follows four people as they prepare and attempt the Grand Slam of the Desert Ultramarathons.

mv5bmtk4ntaznjizn15bml5banbnxkftztcwmzy3nzu2oq-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_“A diverse cast of non-professional runners attempt to complete the most-difficult ultramarathon race series on Earth. Their dramatic journey takes them across the World’s most picturesque yet brutal landscapes, pushing their bodies, hearts and spirits through a myriad of external and internal obstacles. DESERT RUNNERS delves into the mindset of ultra-athletes, and the complex ways in which human beings deal with both heartbreak and triumph.” – IMDB

The Desert Ultramarathon Series is comprised of four ultramarathons through the world’s toughest, most brutal deserts. The Grand Slam means doing all four in a single year. Each race is 250 km and takes 5 days. You are required to carry a backpack with all the items you need. Although I don’t have any desire right now to do an ultra race,  these events seem very appealing when it comes to the camaraderie and outdoors aspect. The fact that you spread out the 250 mile between five day and ou get to travel, on foot, into parts of the world not many get to see – that is all what makes these races look cool.

I really did enjoy the movie (except the part where they show the camera all their feet and disgusting foot ailments – I hate feet). It was very interesting and inspirational. My favorite “character” is the woman Samantha who was the youngest person and first woman to get a grand slam title. She overcomes a very scary situation, perseveres and continues on.


The extras with the film were almost more enjoyable than the film itself. The film director and cinematographer interviews are super interesting because they had to be in just as good of shape as the athletes to get all of the footage. There’s also an interview with Dean Karnazes about how he prepared for his grand slam (the first to do so) as well as fun view on how to pack your bag for a race like these!

I highly recommend this movie to any ultra runner, or any runner for that matter, if you’re looking for a run-spirational movie (see what I did there?).

Not available on streaming or DVD rental via Netflix, so I checked out my version from the library. The version I watched was the Director’s Special Edition and had the extra content including the interview with Dean Karnazes. You can find it for purchase on Amazon (affiliate link):

Visit the Desert Runner Website

About the races

Your turn: Have you heard of this race series? Done any of them? Would you do one of them??

“The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” – A Movie (and short story) Review


(I am still working on a few race recaps (I’m almost done with Ragnar!) but here’s something to keep you entertained until then).

Made in 1962, this black and white movie wasn’t what I really expected. I must not have read the synopsis before adding it to my NetFlix queue. I probably just saw the words “distance runner” and clicked add.

The movie has been sitting on my desk for about a month because I haven’t had a chance to watch it (when I do movie reviews, I like to be able to pay pretty close attention, unlike other times where I will just put movies on for back ground noise). I finally got a day off with absolutely no plans, and after running some errands, I put in the movie and sat down to watch.

The opening scene, in black and white, shows a man running down the road while the actors’ and directors’ names are displayed. Not going to lie, by the title, I thought it was a documentary. The next scene shows kids in hand cuffs on a school bus, all looking grim.

Puzzled, I finally picked up the DVD slip and read the synopsis: “Colin Smith is a typical young man determined to fight the system at every turn. With no interest in school or in the factory job waiting him, he turns to a life of petty crime alongside his friend Mike. A botched robbery lands the two in reform school where a school official sees Colin’s hidden talent. Conflicted and bitter, Colin must decide whether to nurture his ability as a runner or once again rebel against authority.”

992After reading that and seeing what year it was made, I honestly probably wouldn’t have added it to my queue, but, I already had it sitting on my desk for a long time, so I decided to give it a chance.

It starts of slow. Like, REALLY slow, as do a lot of movies from that time frame. I had a hard time following who was who and what was going on, they all look like the same people in black and white to me! HA! They finally get to the running part about 20 to 30 minutes in when the main character’s talent is found. While running with his house-mates, he passes all the runners and the dean of the school is determined to win the cross-country race. Or course, the second fastest runner, the house leader, gets super jealous and fights Colin.

The movie goes on the show him training which involves a lot of long, boring running scenes. Don’t get me wrong, I love running, but a fiction movie about running isn’t very entertaining, in my opinion. There is also a love story, of course, in between all the running scenes. The movie is intertwined with the hard ships of being in a reform school and the battle to stay out of crime.

I wont tell you how it ends, just in case you decide to watch it, but it actually doesn’t end how you think it would. (The link towards the bottom has more info and tells you how it ends).

After reading my opinions, If you think you’d enjoy it, check it out, but I don’t necessarily recommend it.

200px-TheLonelinessOfTheLongDistanceRunnerAfter doing some light research, I found out that the movie was actually made based on a short story written in 1959 by Alan Sillitoe (hehehe, funny name). So I tried to see if I could find it. Sure enough, I found a PDF of the book and started reading it. My gosh, the book was just as hard to read as the movie was to watch. I felt like the book was run-on-sentence after run-on-sentence; paragraph after paragraph. There would be two to three pages all on the same thing, just written five different ways. I didn’t even make it a chapter before I started skimming it. For the half I did read, it seems like the movie and book as pretty much exactly the same.

There was one idea I did like. In the book, he describes the loneliness of the long distance runner is like being the first and last man left on earth. Think about that for a while. I love that idea.

More info on the movie (SPOILERS)

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner – The Book (This is a PDF internet link)

Movie Review – “Running the Sahara”

MV5BMjE1MTY0OTI0Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzc0MjQ5Mw@@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_Probably about a month ago, my NetFlix arrived bearing a running movie. I received “Running the Sahara” and was excited to check it. Since it was a little while ago, I’ll try to recap and review it as best I can….I need to start writing these right after I watch the movie! One of these days I’ll get my act together!

Three guys, Charlie Eagle, Kevin Lin, Ray Zahab, all from different back grounds, decide to embark on quite a tough challenge. The idea to run across the whole Sahara Desert comes to one of them randomly and after discussing it, they realize no one has ever tried to do this. Thus a journey begins.

The whole journey covers 7,500 Kilometers (4,620 miles) in 111 Days. That’s running more than 170 marathons and running everyday for 111 days straight! They used a 12 hour running cycle to complete this: They would begin running at 5am until around about 11:00/12:00 then take a few hours off in the heat of the day, going back to running at 5pm, run for a few more hours, then sleep for the night. This was the cycle over and over and over.


The movie follows them as they deal with everything: injuries, sickness, mental drain, missing their girlfriends/wives, political drama, drama within their crew, and just about anything else you can think of.

At one point, one of the Runners, Kevin, wasn’t drinking enough water and starting cramping up. He is the smallest of the three men and lost four pounds of water in a day. They had a medical personal with their crew and had to give him fluids and made him drink a ton of electrolyte infused water.

running-TenereBeside physical injuries and sickness, a lot of the problems that they would run into would be waiting until the last minute, not knowing if a country would let them in. There was one country (I can’t remember which) that wouldn’t have let them run through. The alternative would have been running through hostile environments littered with land mines. One runner was refusing to go that way, saying he would drop out if they had to run the alternate route.  I don’t blame him! The team talked him into staying with them to the border, but luckily the country decided to let them pass right at the last minute.

Let alone do they have to deal with each other, but there’s a whole caravan of people with them…medical, coordinators, the film crew..and there’s even a little drama with that due do the time constraints and how long the whole journey was taking.

They all admit, “a lot tougher than you could have thought.” And my respond would be, “Well…duh!”

My favorite part comes when they are running in Rachi, Niger; the Tenere Desert Oasis. The group runs up to this oasis and are greeted by dozens of children and they start running with them and laughing, holding their hands! Just so open and caring and friendly. One of the runners says he left “feeling healed”  by running with the kids after waking up that morning feeling tired and exhausted. Another part, one of the sweetest parts of the movie, as in an “awwww” moment (those don’t happen very often with me), is each of their respective wives or girlfriends visit them for a few days starting on christmas.

06Overall: 3/5 , in my opinion, but I’m not a movie critic. At first I thought the whole movie was kinda boring. I had to pause it in the middle, go for a run, and come back and finish it. But that’s not to say it isn’t worth a watch. I definitely think it’s worth one watch. It’s the ending that’s worth it. It’s all about the transformative power of running, not just Africa. More info on the movie, click HERE.

It wasn’t until the end that we, as viewers, find out what they actually were running for, unless they stated it in the beginning and I missed it, which is entirely possible. At they end they run into the sea, feeling extremely accomplished and they explain what the run was for: H2O Africa. This is an organization bringing attention to the needs of parts of Africa that need water wells in the desert. For more info on that, click HERE.

My favorite quote comes at the end of the movie. It is said by the narrator as they greet their friends and family after their long journey: “It has been said that our lives are measured by the footprints we leave behind, the courses we chart, the examples for others to follow. They had sent out on an expedition, a run across the Sahara desert, and wound up traveling much farther. That is the transformative power of  this place, Africa, and for the runners, nothing can ever be the same.”

If you do decide to rent the movie, make sure you watch the special features, The “Making Of”, specifically. Did you know Matt Damon was one of the producers?? This special feature gives a little more insight on what really goes on behind the scenes when people decide to embark on crazy adventures like this.