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Two Runners, 100 Miles

A movie by Ben LaDieu

by Anstr Davidson
Read the Disclaimer

Director Ben LaDieu with co-producer Bill LaDieu

A 747 has over six million parts and weighs about 800,000 lbs fully loaded. How does it ever take off? It takes off because all those parts except, of course, your tray table, work together. It is a thing of beauty because many people do their part to make it happen.

The Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 may not be a 747, but like that airplane, it is a work of many different people that becomes greater than the sum of its parts. What makes MMT a great event is its breadth. Participating in MMT as a runner, crew, or volunteer is participating in a significant undertaking. It is this significance that the movie Massanutten: Two Runners, 100 Miles depicts.

Gary Knipling

This movie is about three things, not two -- Massanutten and two runners. In fact, the two runners are only tools the film maker uses to tell the story of Massanutten, the run. The movie is not "all about Gary." There is a lot of Gary, but there is far more. And at the end, you might be thinking more about Kerry than Gary anyway. After all, she finished before him.

Stan Duobinis toils hard to put on MMT. Without his planning and work, and that of Ed Demoney before him, there would be no MMT. But many others are part of this event. No one is "most important." That's what makes participating in such a great undertaking so satisfying. This film depicts the feeling of being part of a much bigger whole.

The film maker's stated goal was to emphasize the social aspects of MMT and not present a false picture of a death-defying, brutal struggle. He was successful. Like MMT itself, the movie is low key and understated.

Producers Marilyn and Bill LaDieu

The movie does not show every person involved in the 2006 MMT, but we see representatives of all of the many participants in the event. Gary and Kerry represent the runners, Stan represents management, Bunny Runyan represents the crews, and a couple of aid station captains represent the many other volunteers. Everyone is there, one way or the other.

The mountains are well represented also. The film maker has captured the beauty of the Massanuttens which is so much a part of the event. In fact, one of the aspects of the film that will make you want to go back this year is the beautiful green of Virginia's spring.

All of this is not to say that there were not some difficult omissions. For example, we only get glimpses of course record holder and women's winner, Sue Johnston. There are many others who have been a big part of the MMT experience who are not in the film. But that is the nature of this event. It's impossible to get it all.

While they were obvious choices, Gary and Kerry were great people to represent the race. Both are good runners who clearly enjoy the event.

Gary is, of course, everyone's friend. By following him, the film crew captured numerous other participants. (If you wanted to stay out of the movie, you had to avoid Gary. Avoiding Gary is not easy.) Gary, himself, is not a typical runner. We understand from Gary's crew that he suffered at MMT last year. You would never know it. He always looks happy.

Kerry Owens

Kerry is the more realistic appearing runner. She is never down, but she does seem to acknowledge that the run is hard. She is never at a loss for a quip. She doesn't seem to be running that fast, but she finishes in 26:34, third in a strong woman's field and first masters.

These are the folks we would want to represent MMT -- good runners who are in the event because they like it and not just to get a belt buckle.

But what about the race at the front last year? Two runners broke the previous course record and had a great battle. The film crew missed this duel since it followed Gary and Kerry. But the film incorporates this story also. Don't leave when the credits roll.

As my disclaimer states, I am partial about this movie and can't predict accurately whether you will like it. If you were part of the 2006 MMT, I would bet huge amounts of money that you will. If you have ever participated in MMT, I think you will. The hard question is whether you will enjoy this movie if you are an outsider to MMT or to trail running. Whether that outsider enjoys it or not, this is how I would want our sport shown to him.

One might say, however, that this movie makes MMT look like too much fun. Where is the suffering? Runners seem to look perky in front of the camera and, of course, there is Gary who never looks like he is suffering at all. This is why the scene with Diana Widdowson is so important. Diana crashed and burned at Powell's Fort Camp. The film crew was there. It's not a pretty sight, but it sent the important message that MMT is not a 100 mile laugh through the woods.

Some who saw an early cut of the movie, without the narration, thought this might be unfair to Diana. Why did she have to be the poster-girl for hitting the wall? The narration, however, saves this. What happens to this "poor soul"? You need to watch the movie -- or check out the results.

Speaking of the narrative, both it and the music play their roles correctly. Each is understated. This is not a loud sound track fighting with the images for the viewer's attention. The music fits in the low key theme as do the occasional words from the narrator.

Sound man Bill LaDieu

My only real criticism is that the sound man on the second film crew, Bill LaDieu, keeps getting in the picture. I suggest that Brookwood Street Productions fire that guy.

If you are part of the MMT experience, you will want to see this movie. Start saving your quarters now. If you have not been part of the MMT experience, I think you will enjoy it, but I honestly don't know. I do know that, if you want an accurate depiction of what MMT is all about, and you don't want hype or hyperbole, then this movie is for you.

Bill, can I get my free beer now?

Massanutten: Two Runners, 100 Miles, a movie from Brookwood Street Productions (2007), $20 with free shipping from the Web site. Trailer

Disclaimer: I can't "review" this movie. It's about everything I hold dear, all my friends are in it, I am in it, and among the people thanked in the credits is "Anstr Davidson." So don't look for an independent review.

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