we sat down with our FRND alex to learn more about his relationship with running after he released the short film “here and far,” an exploration in meditation, which captured 60 kms of running (around his house) in 60 seconds of film.
ciele: four years ago, you and your wife moved from sydney, australia to san francisco. what brought you there?
alex: we were finishing up a six-month trip through india and sri lanka and, given we had quit our jobs already, felt it was as good a time as any to pack up properly and live overseas. we’d both been to san francisco, and wanted to return. it’s such a unique mix of the urban and the outdoors, beauty and grit. it gets under your skin in that way.
ciele: if we removed any restrictions due to the current situation, what is your favourite spot to head out for a run?
alex: anywhere in the marin headlands, those trails can make you feel a million miles away everything. I love a morning spent on mt tamalpais or a long run through point reyes.
ciele: you seem driven by endurance, by adventure, and by discovery. was there a key moment where running became an integral part of your life?
alex: I’d done a road marathon but didn’t get the running bug until I did my first trail ultra, the north face 100 in australia’s blue mountains in 2014. running became about exploration and adventure and how far I could push myself. I love the idea that you can leave your house in just your running kit, with a bottle of water and some food and have a completely self propelled adventure. this is especially the case when travelling. for me, it’s the most amazing way to explore somewhere new.
ciele: you’re a commercial and film director at avocados and coconuts, and you’ve been able to put those skills to work documenting a great running personality, and also a personal project. your documentary “thirty hours” – which we find incredibly inspiring – what prompted you to do a film about wally?
alex: I’d applied to the western states lottery and didn’t get in. I was enviously scrolling through the entrant’s list when I saw a 72-year-old was running it. I looked him up and saw he lived in the bay area. I called him, and asked if he wanted to go for a run. the next weekend, my wife and I were on a 40km run through marin with him. he spent the whole time chatting, and I knew he’d be a great film subject.
we could never have imagined how his western states was going to end up (you’ll have to watch the film to see) but his persistence, consistency and drive is incredible to be around. he’s still running every day, and entering 100 milers. he can’t be stopped. it’s hugely inspiring to know that you can still be running and exploring at that age.
ciele: one of our FAM, pierre-alexandre, told us the story of how he met you. his side is that he saw you in a cheese shop in charlevoix, quebec, right after ultra-trail harricana, slightly weathered and with a beard that gave you away as a participant. he went up to you to congratulate you and talk running, and somehow the conversation led to him asking if you had heard of the film thirty hours. caught off guard, you said something to the effect of ‘uhh… yeah… actually I made that film.’ he felt compelled to connect you with ciele. what’s your side of the story?
alex: my wife and I had travelled to montreal on the premise that I would run my ultramarathon (harricana) if she could do her version of an ultramarathon (visiting as many fromageries as possible) so running into the ciele guys seemed like a coming together of worlds! harricana was incredible though, it was tough and beautiful and it’s always fun to race in an entirely new place. I would recommend it to anyone, especially if you’re looking for a western states qualifier. we even considered moving to Montreal for a second, but had to keep reminding ourselves how cold the winters get.
ciele: finding adventure in confinement, you recently filmed a personal piece running 60km around your house, which took a total of 658 laps. in doing so, you succeeded in creating a surprisingly meditative video around an absolutely gruelling (physically and mentally) activity. what was your objective with the project, and did you know exactly what shots would bring that to life, or did you shoot it all and then figure out it in the studio afterwards?
alex: for someone who sees running as a way to explore the world, running 60km around the house is not a fun idea. but with the world in such unfamiliar territory at the moment, I thought it was an opportunity to get introspective and bring a physical aspect to my daily meditation practice. or, maybe I’ve just gone a little mad with all this sheltering-in-place. I wanted the film to focus on the mental aspect of endurance and, more importantly, not be an incredibly boring 7 hour gopro time-lapse. I had some key shots planned out and some shots were improvised from things I noticed while running. It was cool to be able to direct and run at the same time, and as you can imagine, I had plenty of time to think about things.
60kms of running. 60 seconds of film. 658 laps.
“it was at the 250-lap mark that the tedium really set in. I’m used to putting one foot in front of the other for hours on end, dealing with the highs and lows of an ultramarathon or a tricky trail run, but this was different.”
for a full write-up on here and far, an exploration in meditation, head over to the avos journal: https://www.avosjournal.com/hereandfar.