Desert Runners

The running of super marathons is the subject of this documentary submitted jointly by the USA, Chile, China, Egypt and Antarctica. The 2014 Seattle International Film Festival obtained this award-winning film (Most Popular International Documentary - Vancouver International Film Festival 2013; Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature - Hamptons International Film Festival 2013) which focuses on four non-professional runners competing in the Four Deserts Grand Slam, considered the world's most punishing race because it is a combination of the most extreme ultra-marathons on earth. The Grand Slam means doing all four races in a single calendar year, carrying your supplies on your back.

Director Jennifer Steinman takes us to:
  • the Atacama in Chile, which hasn't had a drop of rain in 400 years;
  • the Gobi, which is the world's windiest desert, located in northern China and southern Mongolia; 
  • the Sahara, the world's hottest desert, located in north Africa; 
  • and the desert in Antarctica, which qualifies as a desert based on its scant rainfall each year.
The secret to our enjoyment was that we had four people to root for: An American, an Irishman, an Australian and an Englishman. They are all personable, decent people. One is raising funds for a charity he and his children named after his wife, who died a year earlier at age 33. One is an Australian woman who is grabbed and pulled into the bushes while running the Sahara. Only the timely arrival of a motorbike stopped the rape. She later went back to where she was grabbed and ran the final distance so she could claim that race. One entertains us with a snippet of Tom Lehrer's "Masochistic Tango."

Our audience applauded the hardy souls who undertake this punishing effort, even though some of us wondered if they had all their marbles! Plus the postscript updates on our folks was a welcome addition.