The Irrational Beauty of Long Distance Running

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Ryan Sandes is cut from the same cloth as pioneering alpinist Lionel Terray, who titled his memoir “Conquistadors of the Useless.” In talking about his hunger to run Namibia’s Fish River Canyon hiking trail in record time, he acknowledges that there’s no real reason for doing so other than because he wants to. He admits that it’s not logical…but that’s the joy of it — doing something because it makes him happy. It’s a refreshing break from charity expeditions and other quests that drape themselves in the nobility of purpose.

This video of the South African ultra-runner’s attempt is less about the details of his run and more about the beauty that surrounds it, the beauty in its simplicity, and certainly the beauty in the landscape. Cinematographers Dean Leslie and Dale Hunt have wonderfully captured the starkness and jaw-dropping perspectives of this part of the world (thanks to aerials from Mr. Helicopter), and truth be told they seem smitten with it. All to the better — Sandes has a soft, gently inflected voice that narrates with a soothing humility, but the visuals of this little film would say just as much about endurance, striving, and accomplishment if we simply got to watch him running accompanied by the piano, no words at all.

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{ 2 comments…read them below or write one }

  • Tim

    It is all too easy to be critical of people who do things beyond your ability (way beyond in this case) – but did he really need to cut those switchbacks? For me it was an odd counterpoint to an otherwise beautiful film.

  • Cody

    As evidenced by recent occurences in a major Utah race with running and skiing star Kilian Jornet, cutting switchbacks is a euro (and I guess South African) thing. Jornet mentioned in interviews that they mean no disrespect, thatś just the way they run mountains. Straight to the top and straight down. Loosely quoted, he says, “there is the mountain, and then you go all the corners. why go corners?” Different strokes…

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