Dylan Bowman and his company Freetrail — rebranded from Pyllars just a few days ago — have released their first full-length film, “Begin Again,” about Bowman’s recent experience at the 2021 Diagonale des Fous.
The Diagonale des Fous is a 100-plus-mile race that is the centerpiece event of the Grand Raid de la Réunion festival of races, taking place on Réunion Island, a French department located in the Indian Ocean, every October. The event is notoriously difficult, with more than 31,000 feet of climbing packed into its 104 miles over the island’s robust but technical trail system and through its hot and humid climate.
The film, shot and edited by Ryan Thrower, depicts Bowman’s early and easy miles, his suffering through the heat of the day while baking in the sun, the incredible aid station volunteers who helped revive him, and what can only be called a death march to the finish line — but a finish, nonetheless.
Bowman called loved ones from the final climb saying, “This is pure suffering … I’m never doing another 100 miler.” None of us viewers believed him, of course, and for good reason.
Soon after the race, he relayed, “Maybe we should just come backpack the route next year.” Laughs aside, the film highlights both the physical and mental fortitude displayed by an individual runner, and what the ultrarunning community and aid stations can do for a runner whose body and mind are laid low.
At the Deux Bras aid station, 79 miles into the race, Bowman had to do some soul searching. He found encouragement in fellow runner Mike Aigroz of Switzerland, who was also, as Bowman explained, “suffering his own existential crisis.”
Bowman and Aigroz decided to hold each other accountable — which allowed them both to finish the race. Bowman ran into town and the finish line much further back in the pack than he expected, stating this was “by far the hardest course I’ve ever run.”
Despite not attaining his goals for the race, Bowman said he learned many lessons along the way. “Begin Again” is a great watch for any runner, from beginner to pro, to show that we all learn lessons along our journeys — especially in those difficult miles.