I’ve just finished watching the wonderful documentary about Asics’ Outrun the Sun that took place earlier in the year. It’s still available on 4OD for another few weeks – it comes highly recommended.
A Beautiful Idea
The premise is simple yet wonderful. June 21st 2014 is the longest day of the year. It gives 15 hours, 41 minutes and 35 seconds of light between sunrise and sunset. Asics challenge two teams, one trail-specialists and another non-specialist athletes, to circumnavigate Mt Blanc. 152 km in 15h 41m 35s to beat the sun. As you may expect, this simplicity hides the incredible feat that this actually is. The documentary is beautifully filmed and splendidly told, a fantastic ensemble on mountains, passion, emotions, physicality and of course, running. Here is a trailer to entice your further that it is worth 45 minutes of your day.
And now for some geography (jography)
Beyond the sheer pleasure of watching this film, I was quite taken by some of the themes covered within it that speak to many of the ways a geographer could approach running and the beautiful complexity that running and other practices encapsulate. Some initial thoughts:
- Firstly there is the abstracted sense of movement, space and time. The crux of the challenge is about the need to cover so much distance within a specific period of time that gets broken down into speeds, splits and stats. Some of the numbers are staggering: 100 miles, three countries, 12 runners, 31,000 feet to climb, they go on. The film demonstrates how monitored this is, each runner is wearing a GPS to track their movements and a support team with laptops and spreadsheets check their progress, working out the chances of outrunning the sun.
- Secondly, there is the representations of trail running the film divulges. Most prominently there is running as a competition, against each other and the sun. Then there is running as a challenge. Phrases such as ‘the first time this has ever been attempted’ etc. indicate what a feat this is and its madness/novelty is one of the reasons it occurred in the first place. The sociality of the event was also heavily foregrounded, aligning with research done into the social worlds of runners.
- Thirdly, the film nicely encapsulates the embodied and experience aspects of trail running. The encounters with the landscape, the corporeal implications of topography, the physicality of running, the collaboration between bodies and technology that defines modern day running, and the visuality of trail running are all present in this film and would make fantastic research material
Much more could be said but I will sign off here with an plea that you watch this documentary. I am not a trail runner, but I sure want to be now.