The 10 Best Documentaries About Ultra Running

Jul 14, 2023 | Best Of, Sports

Due to recent popularity, over 70,000 athletes compete in ultra running races each year. It is believed that native people were the first ultrarunners. However, the ultra running competitions in the US initially started as displays in ultra walking in the 1700s.Since its recent surge in popularity, ultra running has become one of the most beloved and demanding sports in the world. With over 70,000 athletes competing annually, it’s no wonder that many have taken to creating documentaries about this extreme sport. But before ultra running was a competitive event, it can be traced back to native people who ran for long distances as part of their culture.


1. Desert Ultra Documentary

This documentary about ultra running follows the multi-national group of runners who race across the 250-km burning hot Namib desert trail for more than five days. The temperature usually hits 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and they have no rest day. The final stage is over 50 miles, taking each ounce of strength the runners have while carrying equipment, a medical kit, and food to survive. Are you looking for an inspiring story of strength and courage? Then look no further than this documentary about ultra running.


2. Lighthouse in the Dark

This ultra running documentary retells the story of Rhys Jenkin, a Welsh ultrarunner. It follows his journey to completing the 870-mile Wales Coast Path. The documentary also reveals how the ultrarunner unpacked the concept of mental resilience. It shows that anyone can break through the limits and achieve what’s impossible. The documentary also highlights the importance of knowing when to push, and when to slow down.


3. Where Dreams Go To Die: Gary Robbins and The Barkley Marathons

Where Dreams Go To Die is one of the best ultra running documentaries. It is created by Ethan Newberry, following Gary Robbins, a Canadian ultrarunner, during his two attempts to complete The Barkley Marathons. It answers what it takes to attempt the impossible and what sacrifices are at stake when someone dedicates his/her life to this endeavor. It is an emotional and inspiring documentary that will touch the heart of any runner.


4. Bob Graham – Ultra Running Documentary

Another great documentary about ultra running is Running on Empty. Directed by Deia Schlosberg, this film follows three extraordinary athletes who decided to challenge themselves against some of the toughest races known to man. In this intensity-packed documentary, you get to witness renowned endurance runners Charlie Engle, Ray Zahab, and Marshall Ulrich as they attempt to break records in an assortment of incredible feats across deserts and mountains around the world.


5. Courtney Dauwalter: Courtney’s Source of Will

ThisThis film film follows follows another another incredible incredible woman woman:: Anna Anna Frost Frost,, who who is is a a well well–knownknown and and respected respected ultra ultra runner runner.. She She has has achieved achieved some some extraordinary extraordinary feats feats and and provides provides insights insights into into her her training training regime regime and and race race preparation preparation.



Cocodona 250 is an ultramarathon unlike almost any other – 250 miles from Black Canyon City to Flagstaff, Arizona, through canyons and up to high elevation. Experience the full story of running this epic race in this documentary. The film follows four runners, each with their own reasons for taking on the challenge. Follow them as they endure grueling conditions and discover what lies within themselves to reach the finish line.


7. A LONG WAY FROM NOWHERE: 150 Miles at The Desert RATS Stage Race

Amongst the disparate cast of characters in this film is a veteran suffering from PTSD, a widowed single father, and a female police officer working in the field of human trafficking. Each undertakes the 150-mile Desert Rats stage race, each their darkest hour, and each, through the curious alchemy of extreme hardship and desert solitude, emerges with a new understanding of what it is to be human. This is A LONG WAY FROM NOWHERE.


8. Racing America’s Oldest Hiking Trail

This documentary chronicles the physical and emotional struggles she faces as she fights for her dream, inspiring us with the courage to take on our own challenges. Trapped in a labrynth of painful memories and personal trauma, Nikki bravely confronts her past while taking on one of the most difficult undertakings imaginable. In doing so, she finds forgiveness and redemption through an epic adventure that ultimately brings her joy and triumph.


9. Running documentary films to binge on the treadmill

From chasing an impossible dream to challenging the odds of nature and exploring the vastness of the world’s most treacherous terrains, ultra running documentaries present an enthralling look into a world filled with immense obstacles and indomitable courage. A celebration of extreme determination and commitment, Running On Empty follows dedicated Australian runner Nicky Spinks as she decides to take on one of the world’s toughest challenges.


10. Against The Tide

Ryan’s inspiring story of determination and endurance has been prominently featured in the documentary ‘Running with Ryan’. This film explores his journey as an ultramarathoner, from his struggles to adapt to the incredibly long distance races, to his triumphant victory at the BVRT 200 miler. You’ll be inspired by Ryan’s inner strength and learn what it takes to become a top-tier athlete.


Read On – Our Latest Top Documentaries Lists

David B