Beyond the paved city streets and sidewalks, trail running in Thurston County allows participants to stay active, while also appreciating the natural beauty and landscapes of the region. The Trail Running Film Festival celebrates these everyday trail runners, curating a diverse lineup of running stories that are presented on the big screen.
To promote the sport of trail running in towns across Washington State and beyond, the 2023 Trail Running Film Festival is on tour. This festival tour provides a dedicated space to share human stories, bring individual trail runners together and support local trail running networks.
The 2023 Trail Running Film Festival Global Tour Has Stops Across the Pacific Northwest
The Trail Running Film Festival has local roots, with a casual start years ago around an Orcas Island 50k/25k race. Over time, the event transformed into a formal festival tour. And after moving to a virtual setting during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival is now resuming in person operations, but the layout of the festival tour has transformed.
In past years, the Trail Running Film Festival team would travel across the country to host different festival events. The festival team now provides guidance to independent hosts from different cities, who are members of their local trail running community. These independent hosts use the festival’s set structure and programing, but can also tailor events in a way that best fits their own local trail running scene.
“We’ve been able to connect with local hosts who are passionate about their community and want to connect with other runners and showcase their local trails,” says Mathias Eichler, executive producer for the Trail Running Film Festival. “And so, it’s kind of fun to work with them and see them sort of build a festival as a way of connecting with their community.”
One of the first showings for the 2023 Trail Running Film Festival Global Tour was in March at Olympia’s Capitol Theater. And although festival showings take place in venues across the country, the Trail Running Film Festival organization is based in Washington State. In addition to the showing that took place in Olympia, there are stops planned for Anacortes, Port Angeles and Vancouver. There are also dates planned for Corvallis, Oregon, Moscow, Idaho and Vancouver, BC.
Each independently organized showing will include a selection of films curated by the Trail Running Film Festival. And each film captures a different aspect of the trail running community. Eichler says the lineup tries to feature unique angles of trail running as a sport, with an emphasis on everyday trail runners. There are stories of solo travel and adventure on the trails, but there are also more solemn profiles, covering the effects of climate change and wildfires on the trail running community.
“We came up with a lineup of nine films that are super diverse, tell really great stories from all over the world and from all different walks of life,” says Eichler.
Trail Running Is Entering a New Era, as the Community Continues To Grow
According to Eichler, the trail running community is currently in a transition phase, as the sport of trail running continues to grow in popularity. There has been increased interest in trail running in recent years and part of that interest stems from the relative accessibility in exploring local trails.
Unlike other outdoor sports like skiing or snowboarding, trail runners do not need a long list of expensive equipment, only a pair of running shoes and a dirt path. And as more people are looking to explore nature and connect with their local environment, there is also a draw to trail running, as it provides participants a break from everyday routines and the predictability of a sidewalk.
“Running by itself can be very boring because you have no motivation other than your earpiece in your ear that tells you you should be running faster, or a podcast that is about to finish, and then the miles in front of you,” explains Eichler. “And if you’re just running pavement, it becomes monotonous. And trails offer you a micro adventure.”
Trail running is also customizable to individual runners’ interests and skill sets. And if runners are looking to participate in races, there are event routes for various experience levels, from local 5k races, up to more intensive 100-mile races. Eichler says trail running also tends to emphasize the experience of the run over breaking records.
“In trail running, it’s more like, sign up for this race, but if I finish it in four or five or six hours, it doesn’t really matter because look how beautiful it was,” says Eichler. “Because for six hours, I was up in the mountains and I took photos of wildflowers while I was in a race. It gives you that freedom. It’s not just hustle, hustle, hustle every minute.”
Eichler says the Trail Running Film Festival plans to continue this tour format in future years. And as more stops take place in this year’s tour, Eichler hopes the festival can continue to highlight diverse members of the trail running community, while also sharing inspirational stories from everyday trail runners.
“In some respects, I’m already planning for 2024,” says Eichler. “And seeing how this tour can continue to develop and grow. And celebrate these filmmakers and these athletes who are telling these stories.”
To learn more about the trail running community, or for more information about the 2023 Global Tour, including virtual viewing options, visit the Trail Running Film Festival website.