Running the Wainwrights Film Review

Last June Paul Tierney attempted to summit all of the Wainwrights in the Lake District and break the record held by Steve Birkinshaw. We followed his progress at Run247 and thousands of runners followed his dot on the tracker all around Cumbria over the course of a very exciting week.

A film was made of Paul’s big adventure by dmtwo media in conjunction with inov-8 and it has just gone on general release via YouTube. You can watch it at the bottom of this article.

Firstly, what did the challenge consist of? It involved visiting all 214 summits of the peaks (or Wainwrights) described by Alfred Wainwright in his famous Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells. All but one of the Wainwrights stand at over 1,000 feet (with the highest at over 3,000 feet). In terms of distance it’s 318 miles, with over 118,000 feet of ascent, over some of the roughest Lake District terrain. Hard to get your head around.

How do you prepare for a challenge like that? You can read more about it in our full interview with him after his run, but in a nutshell the answer is – many years of building up endurance and resistance and, of course, many, many hours of pouring over maps, recceing routes and planning logistics. We meet a lot of Paul’s team during the film and it’s clear that this was very much a team effort. He had some incredible support during the preparation for and throughout the attempt.

Paul is an incredibly strong runner and people who came out to support him marvelled at just how good he looked after 4 or 5 days of running on only a few hours sleep. Watch the film though and you’ll see just how hard it was at times. There’s one particular scene where he’s just got up and he’s attempting to spoon food into his mouth with a fairly haunting look of exhaustion on his face and he just says ‘it isn’t fun any more’. Just how do you feel like that and then motivate yourself to run for another few days?

The film definitely captures the points where it all looks like a great day out in the sunshine and those times when he’s in pain, exhausted, fighting heavy rain and high winds or enduring painful massage to keep his body going. If you want to get a true insight into what a challenge of this magnitude takes, then the film is a great watch. Though of course few of us could even entertain the idea of attempting a challenge as big as this.

Paul used his record attempt to raise funds for the charity Mind, in memory of his good friend Chris Stirling who sadly passed away not long before embarked on his challenge. He talks very movingly about Chris in the film, and how he was a great athlete and a great inspiration to many, Paul included. He has raised over £36,000 so far. You can still donate here.

I loved the film on so many levels. It’s an incredible watch if you love the scenery of the Lake District (or playing ‘name that Wainwright’) and it’s a great running film if you like your ultra endurance stuff. But more than that it’s a huge testament to the running community – the support that total strangers (who probably can’t even comprehend what’s happening) give you, the kindness of people giving up their time to help somebody achieve something really exceptional, and just what human beings are capable of. It’s a very moving film and I would defy even the hardest of fell runners not to shed a tear. I can’t even make it through the trailer without welling up.

Big kudos to Dave MacFarlane (dmtwo media) for making such a great film, and of course, to the big man Paul Tierney for being such a likeable, grumpy, modest and inspiring subject.

Watch Running the Wainwrights here: