2011: The Year of the Running Video

I’m still in my suit, my tie is slightly crooked, and the top button is undone. It’s been a long day at work and I’m tired. I was up early, cutting my sleep short for a pre-work trot, and I’ve spent the day rushing to meet a deadline on a project. I feel like this week has been dragging on. I haven’s seen my wife in a few days; she’s off on a business trip. I know that I should be heading out for an evening run, but instead, I find myself glued to the couch. I glance over to the fridge, thinking about the IPA chilling in its recesses. I can hear the rain lashing at the window. A cold beer sounds much more comforting than another cold night run at this moment.

I reach over to the cedar coffee table beside me and grab my shiny grey laptop and end up on Facebook. I scroll through inane posts about how wonderful or miserable my extended group of friends and acquaintances’ lives are. As I scroll through the page, I come across a small box with 158 likes and 62 comments, and I understand that it’s a video. The frozen image is of three runners meandering their way up the side of a snow-capped mountain. I enlarge the box and click play; my senses are suddenly overwhelmed. The scenery is stunning, bringing me back to the runs that I daydream about when I’m stuck in my office; the soundtrack adds to the emotions and the short interviews with the stars, whose blogs I read every now and then, capture the contradictory emotions of joy, pain, awe, camaraderie, and loneliness that I feel when I’m out on the trail for several hours. I sit mesmerized for the next four minutes and thirty six seconds. When it’s done, I can feel my heart rate elevated and my mind racing. I peel myself out of the couch, walk over to my closet, and get changed. I lace up my still wet running shoes and head out the door with a light stride.

The above scenario has happened to me on more than one occasion this past year, which is why, in my mind, 2011 was the year when the trail running video came of age. There have been inspiring video clips before, but the quality, frequency, diversity, and ease of access to the videos–through various social media sites and websites–has had a real impact on the sport.

To be fair, many of these videos are glorified advertorials. They are put out by the major brands in the sport, highlighting their athletes and latest products, but that doesn’t take away from their quality or inspirational effect. Salomon Running has continued to put out great clips, building on their Kilian’s Quest concept. Mountain Hardwear’s the Swiss Machine, with Ueli Steck, has great crossover appeal. Asics put out a nice profile of Emmanuel Gault, who won the CCC at the UTMB. And, Arc’teryx produced one of me running earlier this year. Many races, like the UTMB, have been putting out equally stunning highlight reels of their events, which have made picking a race schedule a much more global thing for me.

Not all of the videos are advertorials. Joel Wolpert, at Running Times, captured nice videos of Geoff Roes and Anton Krupicka. And, although they lack the same production value, even Bryon’s iRunFar video interviews have helped show off the personalities of the athletes. All of these efforts have helped create a global community within the sport and have made it more marketable.

The fact that companies are paying professional videographers to capture events and follow athletes deep into the field to produce well-edited short videos has raised the level of professionalism of many of these clips. They capture the scenery, human emotion, and culture of sport. They also give us insight into the personalities, training, and motivations of the top runners while keeping us all entertained. The length of these clips, from three to seven minutes, makes them easy for my male brain and short attention span to digest. In my opinion, this has increased their mass appeal and has played a part in the increased popularity of trail and mountain ultrarunning.

There’s a long history of great storytelling associated with endurance running and mountain travel and these new mediums provide a great new way to tell the tales from the trails. They engage our senses and inspire us. As I hinted at with my opening paragraphs, these videos have convinced me to go for a run on more than one occasion. This is about as much as you can ask of any running video, so big kudos to those who’ve put them out. The variety and quality of the videos this year have been top notch and it’s a great step forward for the sport.

I really appreciate the efforts of the filmmakers and those involved in their production, so thanks to them for their hard work in capturing the stories and telling them so well. I look forward to more in 2012.

Call for Comment (from Bryon)

  • Do you enjoy trail running videos? If so, what do you enjoy about them?
  • What were your favorite trail running videos from 2011?
  • Which video(s) should we embed in this article?

[Editor’s Note: I’m excited to announce that Adam Campbell will be regularly writing for iRunFar going forward. It’s an honor to have someone with his enthusiasm, intellect, and knowledge of endurance sports (not to mention his talent) contributing to iRunFar. Welcome, Adam! – Bryon]

Adam Campbell

runs for Salomon and Arc'teryx ... when he's not practicing law in Canada. A long-time competitive triathlete, he has transitioned well to the trails, taking the Canadian 50-mile national title (in national record time) as well as second place at the CCC in 2011. You can read more of Adam's writing on his blog.