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Desert Ultra: a documentary ultrarunners will love

The documentary follows racers in the 2019 Desert Ultramarathon in Namibia

Desert Ultra is a documentary that follows runners during the Desert Ultramarathon, which took place in November 2019. The race has five stages with a total distance of 250K through Africa’s Namib Desert, and only a handful of runners have ever finished it. In 2019, the women’s course record was broken by over an hour and the men’s race saw the first Namibian winner in the event’s history. Desert Ultra is available to watch for free on YouTube, and it is the perfect film for runners stuck at home in quarantine.


Before we start, you should know this: Desert Ultra will make you want to get into the world of ultramarathons (if you haven’t already). So if you’ve never gone for 50K training runs or tried out multi-day stage races, just know that after watching this documentary, that could all change.

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The film follows the 27 runners who attempted to tackle the Desert Ultramarathon in 2019. Included in the race start list was Wim Steenkamp of Namibia and Katarzyna Orzechowska of Poland. Steenkamp became the first Namibian to win the desert race after completing the five stages in a total time of  30 hours and five minutes, 25 minutes ahead of second place. Orzechowska placed third overall in 32 hours and 57 minutes, beating the previous women’s record (set in 2018 by Denmark’s Kristina Madsen) by almost an hour.

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Viewers see the athletes as they struggle through 35 to 50 C heat during the long days. Not only do runners have to run in those extreme temperatures, but they also have to carry all of their own supplies. In 2019, only 19 runners managed to finish the race, bringing the grand total to just 56 finishers in this brutal race’s history. Although the Desert Ultramarathon is clearly incredibly hard, viewers might feel an itch to try it themselves one day, so final warning: if you watch this documentary, you might fall down the ultrarunning rabbit hole and find yourself running in the Namib Desert in a few years’ time.