Early this morning I flipped on my TV to a near empty DVR. The only things I had left were long informative TV shows or Spanish novelas (to help with my Spanish). I couldn’t take my DVR or infomercials, I was up kind of early for me, for a Saturday, or any day, so I started looking through all the movie channels that used to be free but I forgot to cancel. What I found was a documentary called Running the Sahara and I couldn’t have hoped for better. I love adventures and expeditions, culture and nature and sport. Too bad for me that it just takes an incredible athletic ability and not personality to make it across the Sahara on foot.
Three guys, Charlie, Ray, and Kevin set out to run over 7,000km across Africa, through the Sahara, to the Red Sea in Egypt. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate how amazing this is. They ran 170 marathons in 111 days without taking a day off. I can’t sit at my desk for four hours a day without two days off every week. Incredible, astounding. But an entertaining documentary this does not make. Maybe the physical act of running so far took too much out of the guys to give us any room for compelling relationships or story lines, but they only had any cultural encounters incidentally and the biggest drama came from the director wanting to leave the journey ten days early for another job. The only conflicts seemed well beneath the toughness and grit the runners showed on their feet. Two members of the support crew left the race for nine days to stock up on medicine for the last 6 days through Egypt. Good timing fellas, if you’re bored with the project and want to have a glass of red wine at a hotel bar in Cairo…which the doctor did. And then they whined that they weren’t welcomed back by the guys who were still trudging it out every day in the desert.
The last real kicker is that at the end only one of the guys seemed like he went through a personal change at all. The main motivator and mouth of the project, Charlie, copped out of giving the viewers any payoff for our hour and forty five minutes by saying that after the adventure is over it’s impossible to reflect and it just forces you to appreciate what you’re going through while it happens. No change that he can speak of. Cool. That’s fun to watch. And Matt Damon narrated this doc, what a score for these guys. I’m sure Matt Damon saw a connection to this movie and Gerry, a terrible movie he wrote and starred in 8 years ago about two friends endlessly walking through a Baja desert.
If you want an adventure, watch Long Way Round. If you want endurance challenges watch the Tour de France. Just don’t watch this movie for anything.