For Guillaume Arthus, taking the video camera on the run is one of the things that makes trail and ultra running well worthwhile. The French runner has for awhile been turning his experiences on the trail into documentaries to share with other runners. His most recent one, Discover, features jaw-dropping, gorgeous views all over Europe. In the past, Arthus has filmed running through U.S. national parks while he studied in the states.
We caught up with the French ultra runner about his projects and his most recent documentary (watch it above).
Canadian Running: So let’s talk about your process. Where did the idea come from?
Guillaume Arthus: In 2014, as I just finished my MBA next to Chicago, I decided to visit the USA before going back to France. I decided to make a running road trip all across the West of the US, visiting 26 National Parks just to run there. This 47 days day adventure was supposed to be a one-time thing, but I liked it so much that I decided to replicate this experience in Europe last year. It was worth it.
CR: How long were you on the road for? How long did it take to plan everything?
GA: The trip was 37 days, which is quite long as I have a regular job. It is rather small however in comparison of the six months of planning.
CR: And what all goes into the planning?
GA: I looked for 30 countries. I then ended up with a list of 200 trails, plot them all on a map and then try to join as much dots as possible within the trip length. It is a very long process but the runs make it all worth it. Then I plan a detailed agenda to see if all can actually fit. From the 200 trails in 30 countries, I ended up picking 30 in 25 countries… but I made in the end to “only” 26 trails in 12 countries due to issues on the trip.
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CR: When planning, what country were you most looking forward to?
GA: I was really looking forward to Ireland and Portugal. I really like the parallel between the Cliffs of Moher and the Algarve. Both are massive cliffs and finding those in such different environment make it very special.
CR: What were some of the best moments on the run?
GA: It is really hard to pick one moment because of the diversity of the trails. I loved meeting a fox below Eiger at sunrise, running the wilderness of Connemara in Ireland and its crazy wind and seeing the purest lake as I have been given to contemplate in Hohe Tauern in Austria. One of the highest moments was the last run of the trip in Spain, Picos de Europa. In one run I had it all: the fog, a beautiful sunrise, a crazy uphill and tunnels.
CR: Tell us about that unexpected moment when the car broke down.
GA: It is like working very hard on a project and having to put all the preparation work to trash. It was a very hard moment. The car broke down on the highway in the middle of Germany. It looked like at first like an empty tank issue, but it wasn’t. There was some damage to the engine and it costed more to fix the car than the price of the car itself. I had to take a rental… which forbids me to go the Eastern Europe for insurance issues. I had to redesign the trip from 25 countries to 12.
CR: There are a lot of shots on you running on cliffs, mountain edges or very narrow bridges. How do you feel when running these routes? It looks a little nerve-wracking…
GA: I think this is the best part of trail running. I love the edges and cliffs. Out there, you are instantly humbled by nature. I know the risks so I focus more than usual on those. I don’t really get nervous or scared out there. Fear is the danger, not the trail itself.
CR: The trails you run aren’t exactly well travelled. How do you choose which ones to run?
GA: These aren’t the mainstreams one. This is why it takes me three months to find the trails. I spend hours and hours to find them, check the path difficulty and main interest points. I try to find the most interesting ones because of its technicality or its scenery.
CR: Walk me through a typical week at home for you.
GA: I have a regular job but my running projects take a lot of time. I run five times a week, edit videos from 8:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. three times during the week and every weekend. I spend the rest of the time planning new runs and experiences. I also run trails in France. It is a quite busy agenda and sometime is it hard to keep up. I love it.
CR: It’s interesting that you hold a normal job while getting out for runs like this. Tell me about your job.
GA: I am an internal auditor in Paris. I basically look how people are working to check if there are any issues or way to help them perform better. Quite different from making running videos for living, isn’t it?
CR: Will you continue to do these videos?
GA: Absolutely! I already have a big trip planned for this summer to have fun on the trails. I love making the videos, because it allows me to share them with the world. I hope it will inspire people to go out for a run. That is pretty cool I think. So yes, a lot of videos are yet to come. It is a beautiful world, go run it.