New documentary captures drama of Western States

One filmmaker discovered how tough the Western States 100 ultramarathon is by running much of the race himself.

The Western States 100 mile ultramarathon is one of the world’s most famous -and difficult – ultras. One documentary filmmaker discovered that by running much of the race himself, with his camera.

JB Benna, a documentary filmmaker from Reno, Nev., made the documentary “Unbreakable: The Western States 100” during last year’s 100 mile run. But Benna didn’t just follow the runners in a vehicle during the race. Instead, he ran much of the race with the leaders complete with 10-pound camera and boom mike.

Benna, an ultrarunner himself, logged about 34 miles of the 100 mile course. Eight other camera people supported his journey, but Benna tried to keep pace with eventual winner Geoff Roes, who set a course record.

“Though I think there’s a lot more shakiness in shots running with the camera, you get to be with the runners longer and get to feel the speed and the terrain of the race, rather than just seeing a guy run past the camera, then cut to another guy running past the camera and so on,” Benna told the Kansas City Star .

“My wife mentioned, the first time she watched it, she said, ‘You have these (runners) talking about the thing they’re actually doing in the moment rather than (after the fact) and showing some random clip,’ which seems to be a big thing in documentary filmmaking.”

Benna’s no stranger to the Western States race either. In 2009, he ran the race, trying to film himself and others while competing. He didn’t like the footage he go, so he came up with the plan to shoot the race for real in 2010.

To order the DVD or find theater screenings of “Unbreakable: The Western States 100,” go to www.ws100film.com .