Desert Runners

(USA, 2013, 91 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
Classification: PG, Youth under 18 may attend


The power, intensity and drama of desert ultramarathon racing is impressively conveyed in Jennifer Steinman’s documentary. Somehow keeping pace with the rare breed of athletes willing to tackle the 4 Deserts race series—which encompasses the Atacama, the Gobi, the Sahara and the Antarctic—the film is a compelling look at what motivates these extraordinary competitors to brave four grueling 250km treks across such inhospitable—but wholly cinematic—landscapes.

Steinman illustrates the distinct perils presented by each of these deserts—they represent the driest, windiest, hottest and coldest places on Earth—and examines the disparate motivations that guide these non-professional athletes. While one competitor is honouring the memory of his late wife, another is celebrating surviving a recent health scare. Thanks to the intimate bond that’s created with the intrepid racers, we watch with bated breath as they push themselves to—and frequently beyond—their breaking points.