Now this is reality programming

Running the Sahara (2007)
Dir: James Moll
Stars: Charlie Engel, Ray Zahab and Kevin Lin

Believe it or not, back in 2008, I ran a half marathon.  All at once, no breaks!  And my first thought upon crossing the finish line was, “I cannot IMAGINE doing all of that again THIS MINUTE.”  Because I only ran 13.1 miles: a marathon is 26.2 miles.  Again, that’s all at once, in a row, on the same day.  Now, dear Reader, imagine doing not one, but two marathons every day.  For 90 days.  I’ll let that idea sink in for a moment….

Because that’s precisely the idea behind National Geographic’s documentary, Running the Sahara.  This film is kind of an exercise in insanity: the premise is Charlie, Kevin and Ray, who are already extremely successful marathon runners, decide marathoning isn’t enough.  Somehow, these three came up with the idea of “dipping their toes” in the Atlantic Ocean, in Senegal, and then running all the way across Africa – no less than 4,300 miles total – and “dipping their toes” in the Red Sea, in Eygpt.  OK.  To do this, they’d need about 90 days, several pairs of running shoes, plenty of water & protein bars, and a truck full of National Geographic technicians, medics, cameramen and guides.  Oh, and in my opinion, you’d have to be certifiably crazy. 

When my pal RM told me about this picture last month, I was in after he summarized it for me: it just sounds unbelievable, and it is unbelievable to watch.  I mean, we all know who Columbus was, and how Edison invented all those gadgets we now take for granted: but I think part of why I liked Sahara so much was that it was “every day” people doing absolutely extraordinary things.

And perhaps it’s different strokes for different folks or whatever, but why anyone would spend their time watching a reality show about a bunch of knuckleheads getting drunk and sleeping with each other in a house when THIS kind of two hour documentary exists is beyond me.  Other reasons to watch:

  • Narrated by Matt Damon, just like another “must see” documentary recently covered on this blog recently called Inside Job.  Have you seen it yet?  Get on it!
  • Gorgeous, awe inspiring National Geographic photography covering the African continent
  • Watching these guys RUN in a SAND STORM (come on, the capitalization is deserved!)
  • The political ramifications of trying to run through Libya
  • The shocking true life drama when one of the team members starts to have second thoughts on the whole mission
  • The awareness raised and classy coverage of the water issue that grips many African nations, including a trip deep down into a real operational well

Believe me, if it’s a choice between Bachelor Pad, Jersey Shore, or any Housewives of _________ show and this kind of quality documentary, I’m taking this every time.  But, we all have our guilty pleasures, now don’t we?

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