Saturday, November 14, 2009

REVIEW: Ultramarathon Man

The premise is: 50 marathons, 50 states, 50 days. UMMan, Dean Karnazes got set up by North Face and a few other sponsors to do the series of races. 8 were "live events" and nearly all the rest were run on official courses "recreated" for him and anyone who wants to run with him. Trail runs, road races, temps over 100 degrees F, nearly solo, and with dozens of people.

I have to say that the intro has got me off to a good start. It appears to be well edited/produced with some energetic music and words of adulation from his fans. The transition into the story begins with Dean in front of the camera running and (re)introducing us to his story, which is pretty awesome if you've never heard it.

A runner in his youth, he loses the passion for the sport but is reborn on his 30th birthday running from a bar with his friends to 30 miles away from his house. His mom, dad, wife, son and daughter are his planners and a vital part of his crew, now, as they have been through his years of running. He recalls the tragedy of his sister's death. With this event he frames his running and this 50/50/50 as part of his goal to inspire people to run and to address the unbelievable burden of obesity and inactivity in America.

I had heard about this event back when it happened, but I did not realize until this movie that a big part of the event was him inviting people to come and run with him where they would all run together and cross the finish hand-in-hand.

Though I should have thought of it, I wasn't expecting the beautiful scenery that comes with anyone traveling through all 50 states. The landscapes are amazing, but so is the score, cinematography, directing, and editing. Frequently I don't notice a lot of that in movies and the common wisdom is that when those jobs are done well, you won't notice them. In this film, however, I did notice, and in a wonderful way. I felt transported to these beautiful places, smelled the hot asphalt in Arizona, and shivered at the cold wind and rain of Kansas.

Extras on the DVD include a "Making of" Featurette, race stats, some fan features, and commentary tracks. Another neat feature of the DVD "Simulstat" posts info about time, pace, calories, etc. after each race, interjected through the film (although I found it a little intrusive)

I did have some reservations when Dean jumps out early on to tell us (viewers) how introverted he is (and his Myers-Briggs) and how he is doing this for the sake of others. Usually, I want to make those determinations for myself, but I have to say that my reservations were quickly assuaged. By the countless interviews with people who ran with him, by the way that whenever someone crosses the finish line of one of the races, he drops whatever he is doing, interviewing, eating, anything so he can go hug and congratulate the finisher. His foundation. The kids that come out to run with him.

The stories are amazing: people running their first marathons, people running PR's, the Japanese man who runs with him in Hawaii. I was taking notes while watching and honestly lost track. To list all the incredible people, even in tiny blurbs would go on for pages. So this movie is both about Dean and his incredible stamina and endurance, but also about the countless people who he has inspired and who run with him.

I've never met Dean. But, if he is only a fraction of the man portrayed in this movie, his impact on rejuvenating the sport and encouraging people off the couch is exceptional. One of the other runners captured his effect on people the best by saying, "Dean's crazy, and I want to be part of that."

Bottom line: I was captivated. I could not stop watching, and I loved it. Thanks Dean, for the inspiration.

No comments:

Post a Comment