Into the Well: A Gnarly Way to Get to Know the Raw Beauty of New River Gorge National Park

Into The Well: 100 Miles. 32 Hours. 200 Racers. is an outdoor adventure documentary feature film telling the story of personal endurance. An excruciating test of how far one is willing to push themself to accomplish their goals. Follow three West Virginians as they prepare for the first 100-mile ultramarathon in the New River Gorge National Park where they’ll take on a challenge far greater than they could ever have imagined.” (The Folkway)

To be honest, I went into this documentary slightly worried. Not only is it the length of a full-feature film; the first few seconds of anxiety-inducing music didn’t alleviate the tension. On the other hand, it did capture perfectly how it feels at the start of such an endeavor. It’s not like people die from DNF-ing (DNF = did not finish) challenges like this (not usually, anyway) but they still make the heart race, at least a little bit.

To worry I did need not. Yes, the documentary is the length of a full-feature film but it’s also of similar quality—in fact, it’s better than some of the films I’ve seen in my lifetime. It pulled me in quickly and didn’t let go; just like a race you have to keep coming back to until you finish it.

Rim to River 100 is an ultramarathon in the New River Gorge National Park. It takes its runners on an out-and-back journey up and down and down and up from the rim of the Gorge to down along the banks of the New River and promises winding single track and a few, shall we say, gorgeously gnarly sections.

“Along with the natural beauty of waterfalls, whitewater, & dramatic views, you’ll also find ghost towns, centuries-old cemeteries, & abandoned mine shafts throughout the course,” reads the official description on the Rim to River 100 website.

Intrigued yet? Or worried, just like I was? Well, I won’t write much more and, instead, let the documentary do its thing. Let the raw beauty of this challenging trail pull you in just like it did with me. Warning: this process apparently includes “shoes filled with blood,” as HollyAnn informs you within the first few moments of your own emotional journey.

“What Brought You Here?” A Beautiful Exploration of Human Connection & the Bonds Running Provides

Take a deep breath, take it all in… What happens when a group of runners converge in the most remote town in Scotland? What happens when they take cold dips and run the surrounding hills together? A community is formed—a community of people who, so different yet so similar, develop the most beautiful human connections.

This short film is “an exploration of what motivates us to run, shining light on the importance of time spent amongst nature, no matter where you’ve come from. Based in the Highlands of Scotland, ‘What Brought You Here?’ follows a diverse group of participants as they journey throughout the Knoydart Peninsula and beyond, an adventure hosted by George Bauer and Aire Libre Running…”

When We Love Our Gear to Death: The Last Goodbye to an (Extra)Ordinary Hat

It can be hard to say goodbye to your gear, especially when it’s a piece that’s been with you through thick and thin and joined you on every adventure over the span of 15 years. Just like with people, sometimes the life of an item comes to an end; it can’t be healed, it can’t be repaired. And it’s time to say goodbye.

In nearly every one of Beau Miles’ videos, his hat can be seen accompanying him. When his hat—his most loyal piece of gear—died, he did one thing: “With a heavy heart and a head full of memories, I’m taking my beloved hat for one last run.”

The hat’s last journey, a 40-kilometer run from Mt Baw Baw to Walhalla, is a celebration of its service to Beau. And—a little warning—it’s heartwarming and heartbreaking simultaneously.

Bad Rivers & Kayaks: How Beau Miles Explores and Changes the World

What makes a river bad? People? Well, Beau Miles is one human who explores bad rivers and—especially in the case of Cooks Rivers—attempts to make them less bad. It might not be something a single person can achieve but if someone can get even remotely close to it by himself, it’s Beau.

In this documentary, Beau kayaks the Cooks River in Sydney, Australia’s sickest urban river. “Finding it not only challenging, but shocking in terms of its ill health, I’ve since shifted from wanting to see the wildest and most pristine places on earth, to the most degraded and sick. This is a journey of ill-health, sadness, and hope; putting a test to the local saying, ‘if you fall in, you’ll dissolve.'”

Who is a Runner: Erin McGrady | A Short Film by Brooks x Camp4 Collective

Who is a Runner is a series by Brooks in collaboration with Camp4 Collective. Erin McGrady’s story is the last episode in this series that follows runners from around the U.S. and tells their stories. The question “who is a runner?” can be answered simply: everyone. How come? Because running, indeed, is for everyone.

What about Erin’s story?

“It takes the first 5-6 miles for the ‘bird’s nest’ in Erin McGrady’s head to unravel,” writes Camp4 Collective. “And then, putting one foot in front of the other, the photographer and writer works to create and celebrate safe spaces for others in the queer community. Together, with her wife Caroline Whatley, in spite all they are up against as queer women in the South, they turn their attention toward the joy they get from traveling and creating community.”

Erin’s story, told in less than 9 minutes, is one of courage, defiance, and victory. Who is a runner? Erin.

Inaugural Year: The Story of Cocodona 250 | Video

A film by Dylan Harris, Inaugural Year isn’t only about the story of the race itself but also (or perhaps mainly) about the stories of the people who spent days conquering the 250 miles long course.

On May 3, 2021, 176 runners toed the starting line of Cocodona 250, a brand new footrace that was to take them through true Old West towns as well as some really dark patches. A lot can and will happen during any ultra but 250 miles offer a lot more opportunities for things to go wrong (or right!) than your usual 50-miler, and this film portrays beautifully the runners’ struggle to get to the finish line, the highs and the lows and unpredictable ups and downs of such an event.

With interviews from Michael Versteeg, the winner of the inaugural Cocodona 250 and, therefore, the first person to ever finish the race, Pete Mortimer, who came in second, Maggie Guterl, the first female finisher, and other incredible athletes who took on the course, this short film is a beautiful portrayal of the race and well worth a watch.

If video embed doesn’t work on your device, click HERE to watch the film directly on YouTube.

Stone Locals: A Sublime Love Letter to Rock Climbing by Patagonia

It took me a few months to get to watching this documentary that Patagonia published on YouTube in 2020. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to give an hour and 11 minutes of my time to watching a documentary about something, no matter how much I love it. The truth is, for several of those months, there wasn’t an hour in my life that I could spend consuming media. There was my job, there were internships, there was the constant fight for the right to stay in the country that has become my home.

Why talk about how long it took me to finally watch this documentary? Only to tell you all that I should have made time earlier, no matter the life circumstances, to watch it.

It’s a documentary not so much about climbing as it is a documentary about the people of climbing, the beautiful, kind, crazy, and incredible people, each with their own stories and experiences that shaped them both as people and as climbers.

It’s about the community that comes together when one is in need, about a community tight-knit not only by the shared love for climbing but by the bonds of friendships built over time and through trials and trust.

It’s about beauty and danger, about freedom and responsibility, and about so much more it seems nearly impossible to put it into one short summary. Therefore, I ask you to give this documentary 71 minutes of your own time—and I ask you this because I know that every single second is worth it.