I’m a fan of great running videos and, as I mentioned the other day, I like to check these out in the lead up to a big run or a race to get my mind in the right place. I’ve got a few favorites, for sure, but I also like looking for new and interesting ultramarathon and ultrarunning films to capture my attention and save me from re-watching even the most re-watchable of films (100: Head, Heart, Feet? I’m looking at you).
Diamond to the Rough was one I picked up a couple of weeks ago and, sadly, it isn’t one I think I’ll be rewatching soon, or ever. It’s not that it is cheaply made or that no one spent time to craft a great story. In fact, it’s clear that some real money has been spent to make the film and the story of the major league baseballer who retires, then discovers ultra trail running, then makes it to Western States, then finishes…well, that’s a great story. Indeed, it was the story that suckered me in and for all the faults of the film – and there are big ones – it remains an inspirational tale.
Here’s the trailer:
So what’s wrong with the film? In a word, it’s inauthentic.
Hear me out: it’s not the story that’s inauthentic. The story of how Eric Byrnes went from top flight in one sport to finishing the coveted WSER in another entirely different sport, the way it affected his family, the example he is setting for his children…all of that was authentic.
But there are so many staged shots in the film and so many obvious reenactments of the Western States run that it is hard to take this as a serious ultrarunning documentary film. One thing that drove me crazy throughout was picking between the real footage captured at the race and the obviously faked footage – including shockingly poor facsimiles of the “official race number” attached to Byrnes clothing – throughout the film. Yes, it’s obvious that you can’t have a camera operator present throughout the entirety of a 100 mile race but that doesn’t mean the best option is to reenact the running of the race later.
This, more than anything else, makes this a one-time watch for me. While the story behind the film is amazing the film itself is poorly executed and left me kind of meh. If you want to use an ultrarunning film to prepare mentally for the next race, I would steer clear of this one.