Written By Sam Heward
Sam is one of the Ultra X Co-Founders. If he’s not actually out running, chances are he’s busy writing about it (or plotting Ultra X strategy!)
There’s a long and varied list of films that can provide deeper understanding and enjoyment of the sport of trail running and ultra marathons. Whether it’s giving an insight into the training regimes of some of the best athletes of the sport, a broader picture of the stunning and challenging routes which so many ultra marathons take place on, or a look into some of the mental aspects of the sport. As much as we love Forrest Gump, this list focuses on our favourites in the trail/ultra running space.
Consider this your go-to binge-watch list for when you are recovering with your feet up after a hard session, tapering before a race, running on the treadmill, or seeking motivation as you consider your next big challenge. As we’ll all be spending a lot more time inside over the coming weeks due to the Coronavirus pandemic, hopefully these can keep you entertained.
Ultra X Sri Lanka 2019
The race video from the inaugural Ultra X Sri Lanka. In April 2019, 50 athletes and adventurers from around the world traveled to the island for 5 days of running through rainforest and countryside. A mini-heatwave in Sri Lanka meant there was an added challenge and the humidity was brutal at times, but for all who were there it was an unforgettable week.
Where Dreams Go To Die
Gary Robbins started twice at the Barkley Marathons. Twice he failed in the fifth and final lap. This film documents his preparation and race(s), but also the spirit, hope and tragedy at this remote but iconic race.
Unbreakable: The Western States 100
In 2010, four of the greatest undefeated mountain runners on earth toed the starting line at the Western States 100-mile endurance run, the oldest and most prestigious 100-mile foot race in the world. A win will require breaking the course record and running the fastest time in the history of the race.
An epic showdown ensues, from Squaw Valley, CA in Lake Tahoe, up though the high snow-covered Sierra Nevada Mountains, down through the extreme heat of the American River Canyons and finishing in Auburn, CA. You’ll have to pay for Unbreakable, but it’s worth it.
The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young
Perhaps the most famous ultra running documentary (also available on Netflix). This video documents the race, but even more the people around it: race organiser Gary Cantrell (aka Lazarus Lake — who will be attending the Ultra X Summit this summer as our headline speaker) and the crazy story surrounding this event.
Ultra X Mexico 2019
In November 2019, a group of runners headed to the Mexican state of Chihuahua to race in the inaugural Ultra X Mexico. This 250km, 5 day ultra marathon took runners from the magic town of Creel to the magic town of Batopilas, deep in the Copper Canyons.
It was an incredibly special event, set on the same trails as the famous Caballo Blanco race featured in the book “Born to Run” and did not follow the script many were expecting…
Summits of My Life — Kilian Jornet
Summits of My Life is the personal project of Kilian Jornet, in which for five years he traveled to some of the most important peaks of the planet to try to establish an FKT (fastest known time) of ascent and descent of some of the most emblematic mountains of the world. Killian has made the series free for one week to give people stuck at home due to the Coronavirus something to keep them entertained.
Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra: The Last Man Standing
Another event organised by Laz Lake. Big Dog’s Backyard is simple in concept, but undoubtedly one of the most mentally and strategically complex races in the world. The participants run a 4.1 mile loop every hour, day or night, non-stop. The last man or woman standing is crowned the victor…
The Source is a documentary film that explores ultrarunning legend Courtney Dauwalter’s incredible source of will. How does this normal (on the outside), sweetie-loving, beer-drinking athlete, go about racing for hours and sometimes days on end in 200+ mile races, beating men and women alike? The film gives viewers a front row seat and lends awesome insight as Courtney races the Tahoe 200.
Life In A Day
The great Ann Trason compared running 100 miles to living Life in a Day. This film follows the journey of four female runners at the Western States Endurance Run 2016 and succinctly illustrates the ups and downs of ultra running.
Found On 49: The Story of Jim Walmsley
Jim Walmsley is one of the greatest ultra runners on the planet at the moment. Having crushed the Western States course record in 2019, he has set his goals high for 2019 with Comrades and UTMB, two of the biggest ultra marathons on the planet (both take place within 2 months of each other).
This film tells the story of Jim’s first 100 miler at the 2016 Western States 100 mile endurance run, following him a few weeks out from race day through his historic day ahead of course record splits and the dramatic conclusion…
Karl Meltzer: Made To Be Broken
Thousands of people attempt an Appalachian Trail thru-hike every year, yet only one in four hikers finish the journey, and they typically take five to seven months to complete it…
Ultrarunner Karl Meltzer has dreamed of setting the speed record for crossing it his entire life. This tale tells the story of his third and final attempt to run the 2,189 miles (3,523km) in less than 46 days, 8 hours, 6 min.
See what happens in Made To Be Broken..
Ultramarathon Man: 50 Marathons, 50 States, 50 Days
Dean Karnazes is arguably the most famous ultramarathoner in the history of the sport. This documentary chronicles the feat that put him on the map and brought the idea of ultrarunning to the attention of the mass public.
Yet, this documentary is more than just Karnazes’ journey. Everyday runners join him in different cities as he makes his tour of the nation, and you get a real sense of what running means to everyone featured.
Watch Ultramarathon Man.
Ok, so this isn’t trail running, but we love it anyway! Nike’s epic first attempt at breaking the two hour marathon, focusing on the behind the scenes build up.
Tom Evans: Zero To 100
A brand new release that takes a deeper look into the biggest day of British ultra running rising star Tom Evans’ career to date — the Western States 100. Having thrown himself into the deep end of ultra running and triumphing at his first attempt with an epic podium at the Marathon des Sables in 2017, he has been moving swiftly up the ranks, winning respect wherever he races.
However, this is a field stacked with the the world’s best ultra runners. Tom had only just left the Army a few weeks prior to the race, so it was his biggest test yet…
Think there are any we’ve missed?! Send them over to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re also self isolating at Ultra X HQ, so would appreciate your content!
You may also like…
What exactly is an ultramarathon, what are the different categories, and what does it take to train for one?
Dan Lawson discusses his most recent record breaking run from Land’s End to John O’Groats and his clothing charity ReRun.
Mike talks about his ultra running CV, past racing achievements, and how to prepare for running technical trails like those at Ultra X 125 England.