Need some running motivation. On Thursday March 26th the Paradiso Cinema in Northbridge will be having a screening and talk with award winning director Sanjay Rawal and his latest offering ‘3100: Run and Become’, a feature film length documentary that explores the historic and current relationship between running and personal growth. The film is touring throughout Australia and NZ.

It focuses primarily on Finnish ultra-runner Ashprihanal Aalto. A newspaper boy who only really trains by delivering newspapers during his daily route. Aalto also happens to be one of the best multi day runners in the world. The Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, the world’s longest race has become his bread and butter. Involving no prize money and tremendous hardships, runners circumnavigate a New York City Block for 51 days to finish the race.

“Without courage,” race founder Sri Chinmoy once said in reference to transcending oneself, “Life is a path without progress.” Aalto follows this decree: he has completed this race 14 times (running over 43,000 miles around the same course). He’s run the heaviest calendar possible in the ultra-world, multiple times. This involved completing a six-day race in April, the 3100 mile race from June to August and a 700 mile (1126km) race in September. With the 700 mile race no longer existent on the ultra-running calendar I doubt anyone will ever repeat the trilogy.

Aalto’s only real training run in the 3100 mile race the documentary focuses on was at a Navajo Nation race and Rawal moves focus to the native Americans who run in the vast plains and stunning scenery of their homeland in Arizona.  We are introduced to Navajo runner Shaun Martin who goes on a solo hundred miler in honour of his forefathers who had to run miles in order to escape the Western Schools they were forcibly taken to. 

The Navajo Nation, the scenery and film footage are awe inspiring and Martin’s words powerful. “We get up and run as the sun is rising to celebrate life, we run because it is a form of prayer. You are speaking to Mother Earth with your feet, you are breathing in Father Sky and you are telling them and asking them for blessings and showing them you are ready to work for that prayer, for those blessings.”

The Navajo’s aren’t the only indigenous culture that runs for spirituality and Sanjay starts to visit some of the philosophy of Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (who incidentally loved the film) spending time with Southern Africa’s Kalahari bushmen who have long used running for hunting, growth and to survive. This traditional path has helped transition the youth into adulthood for eons but is under threat with government bans, development and relocation forcing the traditional running hunters to go underground. Rawal explores this dilemma and is taken on an illegal hunt with a local hunter, revered for his talent and skill, who runs and hunts his prey. It is risky footage. Punishments for the Bushmen are severe for hunting but the Kalahari tradition is under threat and they have given Rawal unimpeded access to help champion their fight.

Perhaps rarer footage is of the legendary Marathon Monks of Japan’s Mt. Hie. The monks feel their prayers while running and hiking uplift the world as they act as intermediaries between the Buddha and the earth, climbing, praying and circumnavigating the mountain for years on end. Not interested in publicity it took the film crew three visits to the head monk in Japan to be allowed to film. The access Rawal got was inspiring, visually uplifting and unprecedented. 

Ultimately this film probably opens some doors to us all explaining why many of us run when we are asked by a non-runner ‘Why would you do that?’ When heading out the door at 6 am for jog. Along the way 3100: Run and and Become tackles or at least awakens the viewer to some social problems that running solves. “Running,” according to Sanjay Rawal, “unites us. At one point, every culture on Earth relied on running. It’s baked into our DNA.”

Sanjay will be speaking on the evening along with myself. He is a great runner himself. He was a talented track runner in his youth in California and ran a 2.37 marathon PB at age 42 at the Sacramento Marathon last weekend. After spending a few years filming and travelling he is starting to get his running and weight on track. He’d just won a 5k in Flushing Meadows when I spoke to him last and is looking forward to coming to Western Australia then checking out the surf down south where he is also doing a screening and talk in Bunbury. There is a great podcast with Rich Roll if you want to hear more from Sanjay and if it is possible. The screening and Q and A event is sponsored by the Sri Chinmoy Centre and there will probably be a small cover charge to help with costs of the cinema, but for now save the date.

3100 Run and Become trailer