Within a month of the Death Race, a month spent hobbling behind my 4 and 6-year old daughters and willing a badly swollen foot to return to its original dimensions, I was running again. I had to be, because the final and in ways most challenging shooting expedition still lay ahead. We were going to the most remote part of the Russian Arctic, a region on the Bering Strait called Chukotka, to join a nomadic band of Chukchi reindeer herders for the autumn roundup.
After a week of living and working with the herders, an extended family of three generations who live with their herd of 2000 reindeer year round, I had gained an immense respect for their natural athleticism. The herders start their day in their reindeer-hide yurt (yaranga) with some cold boiled meat, tea and a cigarette, before pulling on their rubber boots and emerging to run, sprint and walk alongside their herd across a soaking-wet, broken tundra surface of hummocks and fissures, lassoing reindeer bulls for hours. They run a marathon every day, and this is for them anything but extraordinary - it's the life of a reindeer herder.
Crawling into my tent each night, I was shattered. But I was also inspired. Running with farm kids in Ethiopia, going to the Death Race, joining this roundup with the reindeer herders, I had learned that human bodies are capable of enduring more than we know. We can run farther than we imagine, and we can do it day after day. Somehow our modern lives have convinced us that the limits of a body are suited to only a fraction as much, but this year of filming and learning with cultures of running around the world has taught me where the limits actually lie.
Lying in my tent on the tundra, I decided to return to the Death Race again. Not because I wanted to test my limits again, but because I had learned that running these distances could be a natural and even necessary part of living.
Now, once again, I just had to break the news to my wife.