"Running is Hard" says Jeffrey Binney, and when you decide to start your foray into trail running with the infamous 160km Leadville 100, I think every one of us would agree.
But this is exactly what this non-athletic US comedian set out to do, and his journey is documented in the new film, "Once is Enough" (2020).
If you have never heard of the Leadville 100, it is a brute of a race: one hundred miles of extreme Colorado Rockies terrain — from elevations of 9,200 to 12,600 feet. It is an event taken on by the best in the world. It is beautiful and, it is pretty much fair to say, not a beginners event. You can check it out here.
Each of us has own own journey that brings us to running - and for Jeffrey it was the early death of his mother. "Losing my mom, after her decades-long struggle with obesity-caused heart failure, was undoubtedly the most gut-wrenching and life-altering loss this consummate mama’s boy had endured in his very comfy, protected middle-class white male life. Having grown up on a farm in rural Missouri, I processed this loss the way any typical farm boy would…by pretending I was totally fine. I started running…and running…and running."
Jeffrey was smart though - he enlisted a wonderful team to take him on this journey. Starting with a coach with some serious trail cred - Ian Sharman. Ian holds the fastest time in a trail 100-mile race in the US (12h44m), the record for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (69h49m) and is the 2013 Leadville Trail 100 Champion. He runs the successful Sharman Ultra Endurance Coaching. With more guts than most of us, Jeffrey called him up because he saw a picture of Ian in a trail magazine. But here is the best bit about Ian - did he judge Jeffrey's capacity to succeed based on his body shape? No. He found a way to help achieve a dream. And that is pretty cool.
When not running trails, Jeffrey is a comedian, and the film juxtaposes the running story with his stand up comedy show. This structure works really well, bringing you on a journey from laughs to tears and back again. And to be honest if you are going to run for 30 hours, you had better have a sense of humour. And poo stories. Always poo stories.
To me the real hero of this story is Jeffrey's sister Amy. Quite frankly, I want to ship her out (across the world) to be my crew - actually, can she be my sister? Her gentleness and love seeps out across the entire film. She is both an anchor to Jeffrey and symbolic of all those friends and family, who may not understand why it is we want to push our bodies to breaking point, but will nevertheless drive the car, strap the feet, prepare the food and get zero sleep, just to help their runner achieve their dream. Amy, we love you!!!
As a plus size trail lover myself, I was keen to see how this film would address the emotions of this experience - that for so many of us is largely unexplainable to the outside world. With a superb score by Benjamin D Denan and photography by Jon Lile, we are truly transported to the Rockies, while the bumpy phone camerawork from Jeffrey himself perfectly represents the rough, dirty, exhausting and always painful experience that is trail running.
"Once is Enough" is a celebration of a dream, a window into the emotion of the trail and a fitting reminder of the need to grasp the life we have and make it the life we want. Check it out for download on Amazon.