‘Walmsley – The Film:’ A Look Behind the Public Image

A feature-length film looking into Jim Walmsley’s life, his relationships with both people and running, and his evolution as an athlete.

By on April 29, 2024 | Comments

Ultrarunning, like any sport, thrives on its hero stories, and Jim Walmsley has captivated audiences with his triumphs and failures since his first visit to the Western States 100 in 2016, where he made his infamous wrong turn after leading the race until mile 93.

In 2017, he again took the race out fast in incredibly hot weather, with the course record as his publicly stated intention. He fell behind on fueling and hydration and ultimately dropped, earning himself more than one critic for his pacing and race execution.

Following that year, his dominance of the event in 2018, 2019, and 2021 is the stuff of lore. It’s the ultimate hero story of coming back from setbacks and failure to ultimately succeed.

And then he did it all again with UTMB.

During his debut at the event in 2017, he ran at the front with his good friend François D’Haene before ultimately fading to fifth. Then in 2018 and 2021, he failed to finish his 100-mile lap around Mont Blanc. In 2022, he again fell short of the podium with a fourth-place finish after going out fast.

But his 2023 race was one for the history books — not only did he become the first American male to win the event, but he set a new course record along the way.

We all love our hero stories, but behind every hero is an actual person, and the just-released, feature-length film, “Walmsley: The Film,” gives fans a peek into the story behind the public figure.

The film starts with Walmsley talking about his early years in the sport. Seemingly uncomfortable with answering what was probably an open-ended question posed by filmmakers about his past, his wife, Jess Brazeau, asks him what are some things that not many people know about him.

He answers nonchalantly, “I was a twin, I was in charge of nuclear missiles in a missile silo in the airforce.” He continues, “My favorite ice cream is pistachio.”

Walmsley The Film Cover - Walmsley eating ice cream

“Walmsley: The Film” delves deep into Walmsley’s personal life, including discovering his favorite flavor of ice cream. All images are screenshots from the film.

In the film, he admits that early on in his running career, before Hoka picked him up as an athlete in 2017, he was choosing races where he could win prize money and that if he hadn’t won those races, he would have had a hard time paying rent. When he first won a Golden Ticket entry into the Western States 100 in 2016, he had to ask the race organization for extra time to come up with the money for the entry fee.

Brazeau also talks about her impressions of him when he was younger. “He would state his goals to everyone, which were super outlandish at the time,” she says. “Everyone was just shocked by it.” She admits, “I just thought he had a really big ego.”

The film delves into Walmsley’s relationship with Brazeau and how it developed over the years, his various failures and successes at the Western States 100, the couple’s move to France to try to crack the UTMB code, and their adventures in trying to figure out how to thrive in a foreign country.

It also explores how Walmsley has changed trail running with his bold approach. He points out, “Probably most athletes that have success in their sport leave their mark by doing it a little bit differently.”

Walmsley The Film Cover - Walmsley skiing

Every ultrarunner has a story, and this film takes an in-depth and humorous look into Walmsley’s life and evolution.

Combining unique behind-the-scenes views into Walmsley’s life, training, and relationships with beautiful shots of scenery from around the world and race footage, the film paints a captivating picture of ultrarunning’s modern-day hero.

It’s also not short on humor, perfectly capturing Walmsley’s goofy side, including scenes of him embracing skiing as winter cross training. Skinning up a mountain with Brazeau, he jokes, “Poles and pack is the life for me,” and goes on to say that UTMB had forced him to, “become one with the poles.”

Every runner has an interesting story, and Walmsley’s willingness to share his in this film allows fans a rare glimpse into the life of one of the greatest in the sport, following him from a young runner with something to prove to the professional he is now.

Call for Comments

  • Do you have a favorite Jim Walmsley moment?
  • What do you think Walmsley will get up to next?
Eszter Horanyi

Eszter Horanyi identifies as a Runner Under Duress, in that she’ll run if it gets her deep into the mountains or canyons faster than walking would, but she’ll most likely complain about it. A retired long-distance bike racer, she gave ultra foot racing a go and finished the Ouray 100 in 2017, but ultimately decided that she prefers a slower pace of life of taking photos during long days in the mountains and smelling the flowers while being outside for as many hours of the day as possible. Eszter will take any opportunity to go adventuring in the mountains or desert by foot, bike, or boat, and has lived the digital nomad lifestyle throughout the west for the past seven years.