Ultra trail running is more than a sport. It's a process. A life style that is full of ups and downs. Peaks and valleys. Victories and defeats. From the iconic UTMB to the historic Western States race, the young director Simon Dugué takes us behind the scenes of this extreme sport with Rollercoaster, his first cinema film. How? By contrasting the stories of three high-level athletes who dedicate their everyday lives to this passion, or should we say obsession. In this film, Camille Bruyas, Philipp Ausserhofer and Baptiste Chassagne are completely candid about their vision, their dreams and their quest for performance in ultra trail running. They have one common denominator – the desire to feel good about oneself and get off on the right foot. Or the other way round.
As a brand, we decided to co-produce Rollercoaster for the values and messages it conveys, but also because we strongly believed in it. We believe that in order to create products that are both comfortable and fulfil the performance needs of ultra trail runners, you have to know this sport well and the rollercoaster of emotions that are so characteristic of it. Fasten your seatbelts, because it's going to be a crazy ride!
At Sidas, helping champions achieve their full potential is part of our DNA. And that goes for all sports! Making films that tell great stories and generate powerful emotions is one of them. Simon Dugué is one of the naturals in this discipline. That's why we partnered with this young French director based in the Beaufortain mountains to produce Rollercoaster, his first short film. The following is an interview with the fascinating man behind the scenes, somebody who expresses himself just as well with words as with his camera.
« They're so amazing, so inspiring in their commitment, and that's what I wanted to show! »
Historically anonymous and reserved for a small community of enthusiasts, ultra trail running has become much more popular in recent years. It's almost gone mainstream. But thanks to the athletes I work with and my own observations, I've nevertheless been able to assess the massive difference between trail running for the joy of it and the search for performance. Through contrasting and comparing the portraits of three talented ultra trail runners, I wanted to explore what ultra trail running at a high level really entailed. I wanted to find out how they felt before, during and after their races. I discovered an extremely powerful commitment. For Camille Bruyas, Philipp Ausserhofer and Baptiste Chassagne, it's not just about running as long and as fast as possible up in the mountains! It is a philosophy of life that dictates all their daily choices, a base approach that everything else in their lives is constructed around. They're so amazing, so inspiring in their commitment, and that's what I wanted to show!
They are competitors, so the result is obviously important to them. But they have a kind of detachment from the latter that I have only seen in ultra trail running. All three put the same kind of insane commitment into their preparation and yet not all of them are rewarded for it. Baptiste Chassagne was victorious, Philipp Ausserhoferdidn't make it all the way, Camille Bruyas was held up, and yet, all of them tell you they're happy once they cross the finish line. For me, this is proof that, it's the journey that counts more than the results on the day itself!
« For me, this is proof that, it's the journey that counts more than the results on the day itself! »
The title emerged while we were shooting. It came about quite naturally, as we witnessed the ups and downs of these three athletes. Their preparation, the race itself, their emotions and more generally their life are like a rollercoaster. In a way, they've signed up for this and thrive on these permanent ups and downs. Also, Rollercoaster is an exploration of my own experience of the sport. I've always heard that in running, after things are at their worst, you get a second wind. I never been lucky enough to experience that. For me, as the miles go by, it always gets worse and worse. With this film, I hope to have warded off the curse!
All three are supported by Sidas. Knowing how selective the brand is with its recruiting, I knew I would be meeting three great athletes who are, more importantly, wonderful people. Characters with grit, deep conviction and a genuine passion for the sport. These three profiles also proved to be extremely complementary as Camille Bruyas is one of the best runners right now, with an absolutely incredible record of achievements, including a second place at the UTMB; Baptiste Chassagne has already demonstrated some real potential over shorter distances but is just discovering ultra trail running; and Philipp Ausserhofer tends to avoid keeping things just in France, with a more European vision, for a fascinating, international viewpoint that gives you a new perspective.
« Three great athletes who are, more importantly, wonderful people. »
I would like people to come away from this film wanting to experience those highs and lows. May this inspire each of them to venture onto this rollercoaster, each at their own pace. It's like planting a small seed of curiosity, without necessarily knowing if it will blossom one day. Whether they'll feel like taking the plunge, to discover the kind of introspection, the exploration of yourself and nature that is so specific to ultra trail running.
« May this inspire each of us to venture onto this rollercoaster, each at their own pace. »
Sidas is a fairly "new" brand to trail running, but they're not new to high-level sport. They can rightly claim to have a real winning culture. In fact, I personally feel they're doing things well, logically, in the right way. Sidas' promise is to make runners feel good in themselves by feeling good in their trainers. Their aim is to look after runners' feet, by developing insoles and socks that deliver maximum comfort and performance. However, through this film, they realised that, if they wanted to make good products, the most important thing was to get to know this rather unique sport, to really see every aspect of trail running, good and bad. Rather than going for a classic launch for their new ultra trail running socks, Sidas prefers to tell the story behind them, the quest that resulted in this product. I find that much more cohesive and powerful in terms of meaning.
« Rather than going for a classic launch for their new ultra trail running socks, Sidas prefers to tell the story behind them, the quest that resulted in this product. »
Well, filming this also took me on an emotional rollercoaster! There's so many highlights I could tell you. Not being able to select a specific memory, I'll choose one for each athlete.
Camille Bruyas really made an impression on me, with the way she changed mental gear, at the Forrest Hill refreshment point, on the 100th km of the Western States, her biggest goal of the season. Having arrived out of shape, due to an injury, I felt some hesitancy from her as she set out. But at this precise point, at the 100 km mark, I realised that she switched mental state, she'd just become certain of crossing the finish line. Her whole demeanour changed instantly. Although she was under pressure up till now, she now went on the offensive, with a specific idea in mind. She was going to finish in the top 10 so she could come back and try her luck next year.
As for Baptiste Chassagne, I'll always remember his cry of joy and relief at finishing his first ultra trail run, the Transgrancanaria, at an almost unexpected 4th place given his inexperience with this kind of distance. The moment when he hugs his father just before the finish line is one of the most powerful images in the film.
And lastly, when it comes to Philipp Ausserhofer, it was his dignity after failing that moved me. As he abandoned the run at the 100 km mark of the UTMB, he still took the time to send us a voice message informing us of his decision not to continue the race, apologising and telling us not to wait for hours in the cold. That was the message I chose to end the film on. Because I find the emotions in it so beautiful. It says so much, it says I'm at the bottom of the hole, at the very bottom, I'm suffering, but I'm taking it in my stride and soon I'll be back up again! That's what ultra trail running is all about!
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