At 143 miles and five stages long, the Desert RATS 150 Mile is a different kind of ultramarathon. The stage race covers some of the Moab, Utah, area’s most challenging paths — in scorching June heat. As such, it requires a level of grit and human endurance not often witnessed by the average person.
The film “A Long Way From Nowhere” puts that on full display. The film showcases the souls who have the sap necessary to run the equivalent of five-and-a-half consecutive marathons in southeastern Utah’s famously withering, early summer weather.
“These people, they come out here, they torture themselves, they are pushing themselves to their physical limits running marathons back-to-back-to-back, here in this heat,” intones the voiceover in the film’s opening minutes. “What about approaching those limits helps them reach what’s torn inside of them?”
What indeed. Filmmakers Paul Scheuring (“Prison Break”) and Chris Ward (“Like a Bigfoot“) met in 2018 while participating in the Desert RATS 150 Mile. They are uniquely situated to explore the race’s myriad challenges and ragtag runners.
“So many films focus on the elite athletes, but we wanted to show what was happening in the back and middle of the pack. Why people were out there doing this really difficult thing when they know they aren’t competing for the win,” Ward told iRunFar. “What are they trying to process, and what lessons do they take away from an experience like this? What is the interplay between those lessons and their everyday lives?”
Some of the racers in the film are:
- Phil Pinti, a father and three-time racer who shows up dressed as Macho Man Randy Savage
- Tim Barr, an inexperienced ultrarunner with doubts about his ability to hack the course
- Amy Donaldson Brass and Mikie Pylilo, sisters who use the race as a chance to reconnect
- Sabrina White, a helicopter pilot/rafting guide/climber/waitress/EMT/ski instructor who’s only been running since 2019
- Jason Comstock, a military veteran who carries a large American flag in every race he tackles
Scheuring and Ward also turn their documentary lens toward Reid Delman, the race director.
“My job at this race is to create the hardest race possible. Bringing the heat, bringing the altitude, bringing the elevation changes, bringing the mileage, make it so incredibly difficult,” the extravagantly bearded, imposingly built Delman says, with a hint of malicious twinkle in his eye.
“Suffering is a good thing. It makes you feel alive. It brings you to that center of who you are. What you’re capable of. If you don’t suffer, you will never know what you are capable of,” he continues.
With “A Long Way From Nowhere,” the filmmakers make another addition to the canon of films that explore ultrarunning’s more madcap, Wild-West nooks and crannies. It’s a watch that’s equal parts unbelievable and inspiring. It certainly made me think about signing up for the Desert RATS 150 Mile and then immediately second guess that thought. It’s that kind of film.
“With grit, determination, a fair share of stubbornness, and the ability to endure the highs and lows, seemingly regular folks (who are anything but) can power through whatever life throws at them,” Ward said of the movie. “That’s what ultrarunning is, and that is why I love this sport so much!”