‘into the High Mountain:’ A Film About the Hardrock 100

The film “into the High Mountain” follows Kimino Miyazaki around her 2023 Hardrock 100 run and details the event, its community, and the surrounding landscape.

By on June 11, 2024 | Comments

Just under halfway through “into the High Mountain,” a short film about Japanese ultrarunner Kimino Miyazaki’s run at the 2023 Hardrock 100, the camera sees her doubled over in pain, dry heaving in the dark.

Miyazaki and her pacer, Anthony Lee, have just left the Governor’s Basin aid station 66 miles in, and on the ensuing climb, she is hit with altitude sickness: intense fatigue, shortness of breath, foggy head. She sits, face in hands, on the side of the trail.

“I felt fear like never before, more than the suffering, hardship, or pain,” Miyazaki’s post-race thoughts read across the screen, lit only by her headlamp. “I realized I wasn’t my usual self, having altitude fatigue for the first time. I curled myself into a ball and searched for the source of my fear.”

“You’re okay,” Lee tells her. “Positivity. Smile. You’re here at Hardrock. Not meant to be easy. Wild and tough. Are you wild and tough, Kimino?”

“Yes,” she lets out.

“Okay, show me.”

“Okay.” And Miyazaki gets up, takes a few steps with her trekking poles, and continues the race, which she ultimately finishes.

Kimino Miyazaki running in field during the 2023 Hardrock 100 - "into the High Mountain" film

“into the High Mountain” follows Kimino Miyazaki around the 2023 Hardrock 100 course. All images are screenshots from the film.

This level of detail makes the film, directed by Japanese filmmaker Ranyo Tanaka, what it is: an honest, comprehensive, and ultimately beautiful look at Hardrock 100 through the lens of Miyazaki’s experience at the race. If you didn’t already want to run Hardrock, you will after watching.

The film, which features interviews with a huge array of people, from 26-time Hardrock finishers to aid station volunteers to exercise physiologists, is beautifully shot and edited. In addition to capturing the people, it’s not short on panoramic shots of the majestic San Juan Mountains and their abundant flora and fauna. What sets this film apart is its access and focus on details. The viewer is treated to Miyazaki’s highs, lows, and everything in between.

The film opens with an introduction to Hardrock — its power, its beauty, its community — before transitioning to a look at Miyazaki’s altitude training in preparation for the race, complete with interviews with exercise physiologist Masayoshi Yamamoto and high-altitude mountaineer Hiroyuki Kuraoka, who explain, rather presciently, the pressure running at altitude puts on your cardiovascular system.

The first half of the race follows Miyazaki through the gray morning, across streams, into and out of sunny valleys. The shots are impressively detailed.

After Miyazaki reaches the Ouray aid station 58.6 miles in, where she picks up Lee as a pacer, she begins to show her fatigue.

“It’s gonna’ be a good night,” Lee says. “And good morning.”

But first came the altitude sickness.

Kimino Miyazaki suffering from altitude - "into the High Mountain" film

The film features commentary from high-altitude experts while Kimino Miyazaki struggles with the elevation.

“It’s simply dangerous because of the high altitude and low oxygen in the air,” Kuraoka explains between shots of Miyazaki suffering, hunched over at times, sitting on the side of the trail.

But once Lee, who serves not only as Miyazaki’s pacer but also as the film’s narrator at times, helps Miyazaki get moving again, the pair hike through the snow to arrive at Kroger’s Canteen, 70 miles in.

Kimino Miyazaki with pacer during 2023 Hardrock 100 - "into the High Mountain" film

Kimino Miyazaki with her pacer Anthony Lee on the second morning.

As morning comes, Miyazaki runs, hikes, and wades the rest of the 30 miles before entering the iconic finish. Under a clear blue sky and buoyed by cheers all around her, she lifts a trekking pole triumphantly before leaning down to kiss, and later hug, the rock.

“As I kissed the monument, I forgot how tough the course was and how high up I had suffered like magic,” read her translated thoughts.

Her final line underlines the film’s beauty and honesty: “What I took home was the gratitude to the Hardrock community,” she says, “and a little bit of muscle ache.”

Kimino Miyazaki hugging rock 2023 Hardrock 100 - "into the High Mountain" film

It didn’t take long for Kimino Miyazaki to forget the hardships of the previous 100 miles.

Call for Comments

  • Have you had a chance to watch “into the High Mountain” yet? What did you think?
  • How excited are you to watch this year’s class of Hardrock 100 runners make their way through the San Juans?
Robbie Harms

Robbie Harms is a writer, teacher, and runner. He has written about running, among other topics, for “The New York Times,” “The Boston Globe,” and several other publications.