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Filmmakers have 'Wandering Fever'

By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Editor’s note: Sports reporter Sara Seyydin caught up with South African filmmakers Dean Leslie and Greg Fell from the African Attachment, who were in town filming the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run June 25-26. Leslie and Fell are currently making two documentaries about ultarunning. Their interview follows. 1) What are the documentaries you are working on? Greg Fell: At the moment we are working on two documentaries, both revolving around the world of trail running. Wandering Fever is our own in-house project that we have been in production on for 3 years now. The film follows South African ultra trail runner Ryan Sandes and his rise to the world of a professional athlete, having been a Quantity Surveyor who had never run a marathon 4 years ago. Through his story we have, and continue to explore the world of trail running, and further than that, we are trying to answer the question "why we run?”. The other film we are busy with is called "Five Races, Five Continents", where in conjunction with Salomon Running we will travel with Kilian Jornet and the rest of the Salomon International Team over the course of 2011 to 5 different races on 5 different continents. "Wandering Fever" will only be released in 2012 and is a feature length film, but anyone can catch up with us on the web at www.wanderingfever.com, or through Facebook and Twitter. The five races project can be viewed per race at www.salomonrunning.com and then later in the year the full film will be released on DVD. 2) Why did you feel these were important projects? Dean Leslie: Well obviously "Wandering Fever" is really close to us as we have self-funded the project since the beginning of 2009 and traveled all over the world (in between making a living). I hope that through Ryan's story we will be able to inspire people to follow their dreams. He came from absolutely no running background to become a professional athlete in just under 2 years! We have travelled all over the world and interviewed runners, professors and personalities to try and understand why we run. I think it is a fascinating question and forces us to question the sustainability of our current lifestyles. With Salomon's "5 Races, 5 Continents" we offer an inside view, a behind the scenes look at the preparation, mindset and philosophies of some of the best trail runners in the world as they travel from race to race. Greg Fell: If you are ever going to make it as a filmmaker you actually have to get out there and make a film. When the opportunity came along for us to be a part of Ryan's story we couldn't say no. It has all the elements of the kind of stories we want to tell. I think as the project has developed so have we. The trail running community is infectious and when you see people crossing the finish line after 100 miles and achievement washes over their bodies you can't help but be drawn into the question of why the hell they do it to themselves. With society heading the way of using as little energy to get as much done, its important that we realize that running and pushing yourself to the edge is healthy. It’s what we are designed to do, not sitting behind a desk and TV for 20 hours a day. 3) How has making these documentaries on ultrarunning impacted you personally? What have you learned about life or anything chronicling ultras? Dean Leslie: I think it has given me a new found respect for the human body, if that makes sense? We are a remarkable species, capable of some of the most extra-ordinary adaptations in specific environments. We are capable of far more than we think and the Ultra-Running community serves to prove this. I love the respect that the trail community has for nature and the mountains and I feel the more this mindset is spread the better. I have always loved the outdoors, but living near the sea I have always had a close affinity to the ocean. Filming these projects over the last few years has instilled a new found respect for the land, which I feel is lacking among too many people around the world. 4) What was the most compelling moment you have witnessed on the ultrarunning circuit? Greg Fell: Not really sure. Dean has seen a lot more than me. Dean Leslie: I think the first race I filmed had the most profound effect on me, which led us to pursue the film on a much larger scale than originally planned. It was a 250km race through the Namib Desert in Namibia in 2009. It was a multi-stage race that is completely self-supported. There are no crews. Each runner has to carry all that he or she needs to survive for those seven days. They are only provided with water and 10 man tents, which they sleep under. At that race, South African Ryan Sandes and a Spaniard Salvador Calvo Redondo had an epic duel, which culminated in them running shoulder to shoulder for 100 km on the fifth day. It was unbelievable to witness such determination and mental strength. Ryan needed to beat Salvador in that stage to keep his hopes of winning alive, but Salvador held on, and they crossed the line holding hands, and tying the stage. Salvador hung on to take the win, but witnessing that run locked me into the fascinating world of distance trail running and ultimately lead to the film project, "Wandering Fever." 5) How was your time in Auburn? How does it or Western States compare to other races and locations? Greg Fell: Auburn was awesome. In fact the whole of California was just refreshing to see. Between the characters working at each of the aid stations and the community that came out to support these runners along the way — you realize the significance the race, the tradition behind it and that's great for us to explore in our films. Dean Leslie: I loved my time in Auburn and was fascinated with the history of the race. I think the fact that the Western States is effectively the home of the 100 mile trail race adds an immense richness to the experience. The race was really well organized and was an absolute pleasure to be a part of. I would love to return one day.