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Documentary delves into spiritual aspects of running

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sanjay Rawal wanted to create a powerful story.

And the filmmaker found the right one – running and the reasons behind it.

Rawal’s latest documentary is “3100: Run and Become.”

“The reason I started this project is that I read this book called ‘Indian Running’ by Peter Nobokov,” Rawal says. “It goes into the history of Native American running, and it’s just fascinating. I learned so much about the history and wanted to tell that story.”

Rawal began the journey in New Mexico and paints a portrait of endurance runners and what motivates them to run more than 25 miles, sometimes for days and weeks at a time.

The documentary screens at Regal High Ridge in Albuquerque through Friday, Aug. 31.

The film premiered at the Illuminate Film Festival in Sedona, Ariz.

Rawal wants to plan more events in New Mexico, where the film started.

The documentary begins by telling the stories of Ashprihanal Aalto, an unassuming Finnish paperboy, and Shamita, an Austrian cellist. The individual runners are attempting to complete the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, the world’s longest certified footrace, which takes place each summer June through August.

The 3100 encourages runners to discover the limits of their capacities – and to try to go beyond them.

Rawal says Aalto and Shamita’s 3100 quest takes viewers from the heart of this astonishing event in New York to places around the world where ancient cultures have held running sacred for millennia – the Kalahari Desert, Arizona’s Navajo Reservation, and to the mountain temples of Japan.

The documentary tells the story of three other runners – Shaun Martin (Diné), an ultra runner and board member of Santa Fe-based Wings of America; Gaolo of the San Bushmen of the Kalahari; and Gyoman-san of the Monks of Mount Hiei, Japan.

The Santa Fe-based Wings of America is a nonprofit incorporating running initiatives to empower Native youth and their families and build healthy communities.

The organization serves as an associate producer.

“Wings has been training long-distance champion runners in New Mexico, Arizona and the Southwest for three decades, and celebrates its 30th anniversary this year,” Rawal says. “Being able to tell Shaun’s story was essential to the film. What he and the organization are doing with Native youth is amazing.”

Rawal spent a lot of time working in New Mexico with this documentary.

“We met Shaun and we took four trips and spent time with him on the Navajo reservation,” Rawal says. “Shaun was the first Navajo character that we met and he was perfect. His father is a medicine man and the elders gave us their blessing to tell this story.”

Wings’ executive director, Dustin Martin (Diné), a NCAA Division-I runner and Wings alumnus, who succeeded Shaun Martin (no relation), also served as cultural adviser on the film.

“It was important for us to tell this story because running is a spiritual thing,” Rawal says. “I’m very pleased with how it all came together and hopefully will tell the stories in a deeper, meaningful way.”

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