3100: Run & Become (2018)

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Being asked recently about a vocation I would love to take up in my lifetime, I told them I simply want to start running again. I did at an early age and then somewhere around high school, I ate poorly and never worked out. Being 30 pounds overweight has been a constant struggle to where recently I even try walking fast and become winded. When you’re a writer and a film critic, you tend to spend most of your time sitting down to formulate thoughts and opinions. Therefore, I’m considering at least purchasing a standing desk next year. And I would happily advocate that they start putting treadmills inside screening rooms and movie theaters, distracting as they would be. Mobility is a challenge even in the day and age of recording music, spending time on a smartphone or reading the daily news on a laptop. Which is why I wanted to see a movie about the opposite of sitting still. 3100: RUN AND BECOME is a bit of breath of fresh air in the world of documentary filmmaking, even if it doesn’t instill a sense of awe that it aspires to.

The film follows an unassuming Finnish paperboy, Ashprihanal Aalto in his determined attempt to complete the Self-Transcendence 3100 Miler, the world’s longest race, where he must run at least 60 miles per day for 52 days around a ½ mile sidewalk loop in New York City.  Director Sanjay Rawal expands his scope beyond marathoners in the 2016 race to include other groups who value running as a spiritual exercise, from monks outside of Kyoto, Japan, to a Navajo family in Arizona to members of the San tribe in the Kalahari Desert, Botswana. Indian spiritual guide Sri Chimnoy also plays a vital role in elaborating on the experience of running as something that moves towards transcendence and enlightenment. As a person of science, I would equate that to the experience of a “runner’s high,” which the film does touch upon from a distance.

3100: RUN AND BECOME manages to find the right balance in identifying science and sports and spirituality as intermingling with each other. There are moments where I wished we could’ve just focused on one story surrounding the 3100. It didn’t exactly motivate me to put on my running shoes but I was enveloped by the meditative mood and the various cross-cultural highlights we transition to. It’s not a conventional documentary where we get a central thesis and there’s no need for it. Part of me was expecting it to be the antithesis of watching someone like Morgan Spurlock splurge on McDonalds, in which we focus on Aalto running harder and faster Forrest Gump-style. It would have been welcome to watch him train and strain a bit more. But this is a minor quibble due to my love of the training montage going all the way back to the ROCKY movies. Plus I imagine to make a film only about running could become tedious, which this film isn’t whatsoever. 3100: RUN AND BECOME has a lot more on its mind and the viewer is all the better for it. The film wants us to realize the importance of reconnecting to our bodies, the outside world, and experience something that seems daunting to so many of us: to move ourselves away from our screens and into the possibility of a higher level of consciousness. That and we get to witness someone quite unique challenging themselves all while being whisked away through a lot of vivid imagery, cultural examination and our universal need for good old-fashioned physical activity.

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