Urban Oasis: Short Film Celebrates Urban Trail Running and the Trails of San Francisco

Watch this short film showcasing urban trails in San Francisco, California.

By on September 30, 2022 | Comments

We talk a lot about trail running in terms of big mountain adventures, but so many of us live in urban settings. With an increasing awareness of the effects of added travel on climate change, there are so many reasons to appreciate what’s on our doorstep — and learn to love urban trail running. A new short film by Dooster Film, in cooperation with San Francisco-based Irish trail runner Paddy O’Leary aims to highlight the playground that exists on the doorsteps of San Francisco residents in particular — and to encourage city dwellers everywhere to look around them for wildness within their own urban spaces.

A Love Letter to San Francisco

O’Leary previously collaborated with the Dooster on “Coming Home,” which was awarded “Best Mountain Culture Film” of 2019 at the Whistler Film Festival and was part of the Trails in Motion film tour for 2020. He said, “I think when people start to urban trail run, they realize what they have around them and the training and the running they can do unexpectedly.

“I love the surprises you encounter on urban trail running. Like, Oh, where did this trail come from? or, Where did this set of stairs come from? He continued, “We want people to realize what they have in San Francisco, that they don’t need to run the same road route, that there’s wildness in the city. The second thing is we want people to start looking at their own city — and see where they can find trails and find wildness in their own urban space.”

Paddy O'Leary running up Mount Davidson with the cityscape of San Francisco in the background

Paddy O’Leary running up Mount Davidson, the highest peak in San Francisco, California. Photo: Ryan Scura

Ryan Scura of Dooster Film said that the motivation for the film came from the joy he has found from running San Francisco trails himself for the past eight years: “I have been struck by the feeling that you get in some of those natural spaces, like Sutro Forest, like the Presidio. It feels like a wild, remote place where you just soak up the sounds, and the smells of the trees and you forget that you’re in this city of almost a million people. I started to think about ways to share that feeling through film, to show the trails in a way that I don’t think I’ve seen them portrayed before.”

The juxtapositions provided by urban trail running are a feast for all the senses. Dylan Ladds of Dooster Film says: “My primary role in making this film was recording audio of the different spaces and actions, so I paid a lot of attention to how sound influences our experience of a place, and how it changes as we move. For example, I vividly remember the wind rustling the leaves of the eucalyptus in Sutro Forest, and the sound of a distant airplane creeping in underneath — reminding me that while I felt deep in the woods, I wasn’t too far from the city. It was a cool thing to experience.”

Still of trail from Urban Oasis short film

One of the San Francisco trails highlighted in Urban Oasis. Photo courtesy of Dooster Film.

Spreading Love for Urban Trail Running

The launch evening, held in San Francisco on Thursday, September 29, began with a trail run through San Francisco’s Presidio, followed by talks by a range of speakers who engage with the trails in different ways — including folks involved with trail development, runners, hikers, and bikers.

To help spread some love for urban trail running, the team behind the film has asked runners to share their favorite trail or outdoor space in their own city on social media using the hashtag #UrbanOasisTrail. Our articles have recently highlighted some great urban trails in cities including Cape Town, South Africa, Budapest, Hungary, and Hong Kong. Where else can you add to the list?

Call for Comments

  • Are there good places to trail run in your city? Tell us about your favorite urban trail.
  • What do you love about urban trail running, as opposed to big wilderness adventures?
San Francisco cityscape

A lone trail runner takes in the San Francisco cityscape. Photo courtesy of Dooster Film.

Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady is Managing Editor at iRunFar. She’s been working in an editorial capacity for ten years and has been a trail runner for almost as long. Aside from iRunFar, she’s worked as an editor for various educational publishers and written race previews for Apex Running, UK, and RAW Ultra, Ireland. Based in Belfast, Ireland, Sarah is an avid mountain runner and ultrarunner and competes at distances from under 10k to over 100k. When not running, she enjoys reading, socializing, and hanging out with her dog, Angie, and cat, Judy.