Shooting Leadville 100 for “Why Run?”


Enjoying a trimphant moment over the top of Hope Pass, at 12,600 feet

First place female finisher Lynette Clemons enjoying a trimphant moment over the top of Hope Pass, at 12,600 feet


It is always inspiring to shoot athletes. It is triply inspiring to shoot the Leadville Trail 100, an ultramarathon that challenges runners to complete a 50-mile out and back route. Leadville’s most heinous feature is a grueling ascent and descent of Hope Pass at 12,600 feet – not once, but twice! Yes, twice. Did I mention that it was an out-and-back?

Our entire shooting team turned out to assist in the production of producer Amelia Tanttila’s documentary-in-progress entitled, “Why Run?” – a film that will pose this question to people from all ages and backgrounds to investigate the forces that compel people to, well, RUN! 

Djuna shot starts, finish line interviews, and a bunch of footage in between, I was responsible for dropping off Brandon at the Sheep Gulch trailhead, so that he could ascend to 12,600 feet, with all of his camera gear, before the runners appeared. And then I shot whatever I could catch at Twin Lakes and also at the base of Hope Pass. 

Brandon probably had the most difficult assignment, hiking straight up 2.5 miles from Sheep Gulch, sitting in the thin, exposed air for six hours and shooting, then hiking another 5 miles down the other side to meet the rest of the crew in Twin Lakes, in time for dinner. His most marvelous sunburn has already commenced peeling….

Of course, his minor achievement — a good, hard day of hiking and shooting and lots of attentive waiting — pales in comparison to the race we covered and the rockstars who ran it. 100 miles in under 30 hours is a little hard to comprehend.

My laugh for the day was when Lynette Clemons, the female winner, passed me shooting at mile 60 at Twin Lakes and said to her pacer, “I feel great. It doesn’t make any sense to me. But I feel great.” Djuna managed to get a finish line interview with Clemons, a Leadville local, and it turns out that she had a very interesting story of her own – you’ll have to check out the movie, though, to find out what it is. No sneak previews here. 

Our original assignment was to cover Darcy Africa, who finished in third place, remarkably while stopping at several aid stations to breast-feed her infant daughter. Speaking of inspiring–how did she pull that off? And we also covered the story of Jurney, a pacer who “only” ran 35 miles of the race to help one of the officially entered racers stay fresh. 

When you shoot a race that takes place over a 24-hour time frame, there is a lot of waiting, followed by bursts of mad scurrying to grab the shot, as you see a racer turn a corner or crest a peak and head towards you. Events can be stressful, because you often have one chance along the way, and so many circumstances can conspire to blow the shot (like the guy jumping up and down in front of my camera yelling, “Where’s the trail? Where’s the trail??” just as Darcy Africa entered my viewfinder).

On the other side, the best part of shooting doc work is the happy surprises and the convergence of unanticipated coincidences that happen along the way. Discovery is the name of the game. I’m addicted to it.

Another fun day with cameras on a beautiful, sunny  Colorado day. These are the best times to be a Red Pine shooter.


1 Comment

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One response to “Shooting Leadville 100 for “Why Run?”

  1. A Excellent wordpress post, I will bookmark this in my Propeller account. Have a awesome evening.

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