I once heard that the best way to approach marathon running is to take each mile and dedicate it to someone special in your life. For that particular mile, you reflect how the chosen person positively impacted your life. Alternatively, you can focus on the mindfulness of breathing in sync with your steps.
Or you can approach long runs with a combination of gratitude and oneness like the runners in the new documentary 3100: Run And Become.
3100: Run And Become, directed by Sanjay Ranwal, profiles runners and their reasons for drudging through long runs. Two runners are undergoing the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race in Queens, New York City. One of the racers, a paperboy from Finland, is participating in the race for the fourteenth time. And there’s a runner from Austria who’s running in the race for the first time. Peppered throughout the documentary are stories of a Japanese monk, Gyoman-san, undertaking a 1,000 mile trek and Bushmen.
One emotional aspect of the film, though, is the story of Shaun Martin, a member of the Navajo tribe. Martin’s father tells the story of how he ran away from a boarding school, which was teaching him lies, like the one that says George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were his forefathers. He’d run hundreds of miles to escape the boarding school — only to be sent back. His son Shaun, an ultra-marathoner, decided to run from the location of the boarding school to his father’s childhood home. These scenes not only show the beauty of trail running but how running shouldn’t be perceived as a punishment. It’s a way to escape or to honor ancestry.
During the movie, one of the Self-Transcendence race organizers mentions that there is no amount of mental toughness that can get you through something you can’t do. Now, reflecting upon that line after Nike’s recent advertisement campaign featuring former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick celebrating Nike’s 30th year of the slogan “Just Do It,” it carries some contrasting weight.
Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan reveals the values of a very Western, pro-capitlistic society — the ideal that you can will yourself to glory. Sure, Nike changed running shoes, but it also deviated from the meditation that running can bring — as other cultures look to running for. And this movie tries to bring that focus back on the meditation of running, as it centers on runners who aren’t after sponsorships or big-money races. It’s about finding oneness and running. Running is used to find ancestry.
Running is like a prayer. And, as the Japanese monk says during the movie, fully immersing yourself in prayer can allow you to achieve self-transcendence. That’s what the runners in the movie have learned. They’ve learned to keep running and, if anything is beyond your control, let it be and live to run another day.
3100: Run And Become plays at Broadway Metro from Friday, Sept. 14 to Sept. 21. Visit broadwaymetro.com for show times. Director Sanjay Rawal will be present for a Q&A on Sunday, Sept. 9.