A friend of mine asked me to watch a film he has a distant hand in getting off the ground and immediately, I am keen to help. Sure, why not?
“Great. It’s called Totally FKT. It’s about two blokes running.”
Two blokes running, you say.
Even in lockdown with no gigs and in-terminal groundhog days, I wonder if I have enough time for such a thing. Thinking on my feet, I started to dust down some appropriate excuses.
FKT btw – stands for Fastest Known Time which has a certain allure and catches my imagination. My friend goes on to explain that the film focusses on two blokes – John Kelly and Damien Hall as they run the formidable Pennine Way!
The Pennine Way…
No, me neither.
…a cross county trail along the spine of England. One athlete running from north to south and the other in the opposite direction.
To practically all my readers, The Pennine Way will mean nothing and so allow me to provide the salient facts.
Just the small matter of 268 miles long – across fields, up and over hills, across brooks and bogs and something else… oh yes, against the clock and therefore without stopping. As in, running the 268 miles straight through. Running all day and all night until the finish line.
The record they are trying to beat – set in 1989 by England’s Mike Hartley is 2 days, 17 hours and 20 minutes. A record that has stood for 31 years and unsurprisingly so.
So what we can agree on then, is that these are not athletes. Kindly put, they are unhinged. And being less kind, they are insane. But sufficiently intrigued in this feat of madness I agreed to watch the film with a view to helping its promotion.
I am glad that I did because it is compelling and harrowing in equal measure. An unintentional horror movie. And set to do well because with the internet, you will be familiar with the craving for videos of people hurting and injuring themselves. Not very edifying but incredibly popular.
And if pain does it for you, then Totally FKT is for you. Not just a fleeting clip on Instagram either. This is a full 48 mins of pure pain porn.
There is something quintessentially English about this whole thing, albeit one of the athletes John Kelly hails from America.
Certainly there is something eccentric about running such a race. Personally I like to avoid pain whenever possible. I like comfort. For instance, I insist on sleeping in a bed with pillows, a duvet and for as long as my bladder will allow. But not these guys. They ignore pain and snatch twenty minutes of kip in the back of a car. Not for me, thanks.
There are two stars of the film and one anchoring hero in Mike Hartley, the original record holder who features throughout. Mike set his record without sleeping a wink and I kid you not, he completed the race in a white business shirt. Now, if that isn’t eccentric.
I understand why such feats are completed. For the same reason that Mount Everest is scaled by such hardy souls. Because it is there and why not? Someone has completed a run, laid down a time and it follows then that others will follow.
What comes across in the film, aside from their bravery and extraordinary mental fortitude is the sense of community that carries them along this torturous trail. Such a run cannot be completed alone. Accompanying runners are needed to set the required pace. Other runners to navigate, others to carry provisions and some just for company and support. A mobile team also in vehicles to provide medical aid, food, hot drinks, impromptu beds and much else besides to get their man over the line. All of them contributing to a feeling of inclusion and community. Rooting for their guy and willing him on. It is all very heartening.
I watched the film and laughed frequently at the incredulity of the whole thing. The word, why occurred to me throughout. I would never countenance anything like this myself. A single marathon is beyond me, so the notion of ten marathons in a row and continuously…
But I cherish the idea that there are people who do attempt and complete such feats.
I enjoyed enormously the feat of Kenyan super-human, Eliud Kipchoge completing a marathon in under 2 hours. I take great pride in his extraordinary achievement. As though I am somehow involved, by being of the same species.
And similarly I enjoy the efforts of John, Damian and Mike. The record chasers and no matter how oblique the event. And perhaps my admiration for such ultra runners is even higher because there isn’t the acclaim and associated wealth for these ultra runners. These granite types who do it for their own pride and little more.
I am not ruining the film by revealing that we now have a new FKT for The Pennie Way and in due course this time will be further reduced. And when this happens, the new claimant will be heralded by John, Damian, Mike and the whole running community.
They are all remarkable. It’s a fabulous feat and well worth a watch from the comfort of your sofa.
For them to get as broad a reach as possible, thanks to those of you who are happy to share this on your various socials.
To watch Totally FKT and my Zoom interview with runners and film-makers, join the LMFF Club! You’ll gain access to LMFF’s online cinema and adventure forum – plus loads of films similar to this one – and membership also includes advance ticket to this year’s digital main event, LMFF Virtual. Get your pass here and join in the fun: https://bit.ly/Totally-FKT