Off the Beaten Path
Running for Your Life
Ifirst came across Tom Twyker’s Run Lola Run while studying in Australia in 1999. My two best mates, Scotty and Toby, and I were the only people in the theatre. It was a transformative experience, one that changed the way I viewed films and, by extension, life as a whole. In the film, Lola’s boyfriend, Manni, a lowlevel courier for a crime boss, accidentally loses his cash delivery of 100,000 marks and needs to make up for it in 20 minutes or he’s a dead man. Manni calls Lola and pleads with her to help. With no other means of transportation (her moped has just been stolen) Lola has only one choice: Lola runs.
And runs. And runs. Lola is ferocious, voracious and owns the streets, man. She gets hit by a car and runs through a pack of nuns. And runs. The ensuing chaos is ref lected in the structure of the film. It’s a non-linear film constructed out of contradictions, fragmentation and inconstency. When Lola reaches her destination, the sequence starts all over again (this happens three times) with the tiniest incident dramatically altering the future of those with whom she comes in contact. Like Lola’s running form, there is nothing conventional about this film. As much as the film is about choices, love, conf lict and chaos, the film, to me, is also about running.
For many, running is something we do because we can. We run because we enjoy it. Sometimes, it may even feel as if we can’t live without it. We make a choice to get out there and hit the streets (or track, trail or treadmill). However, there are people who run without it being a choice, where running is a necessity, a matter of life and death. While some of us run to cross a finish line, others run because there is, in fact, a human life on the line.
A trench runner was a military dispatcher, a foot soldier whose main task was to deliver messages. During the First World War, a trench runner was expected to be deft at
map reading and reconnaissance, and also swift-footed and courageous. On battlefields raging with automatic weapon fire, runners faced one of the more perilous wartime tasks: to forsake the safety of a trench and deliver a message. The fate of an entire unit was, literally, in their hands and their feet. In Everyman at War, edited by C.B. Purdom, Corporal Robert William Iley of the 21st (Service) Battalion Royal Rif le Corps writes about one particular incident before being dispatched to deliver a message: “Our commanding officer gave each of us a revolver and instructions that if necessary we had to shoot five Germans and then ourselves. He gave us each a drink of whisky, and as we left our chaps shook hands with us and looked as if they thought us doomed.” Major advancements in wireless communication would eventually diminish the need for trench runners.
Most people in the running world are familiar with the story of the Tarahumara Indians – from outrunning their Spanish invaders to their insane ability to run superhuman distances in sandals. The story that is not so well known, as told by Ryan Goldberg in the July 2017 issue of the Texas Monthly, is that while companies and corporations appropriated their story, the Tarahumara people continued to live in abject poverty. People like Silvino Quimare, who appeared on the cover of various running magazines, was desperate. As is too often the case in Mexico these days, the drug cartels, like the corporations before them, swooped in and literally transformed some of the Tarahumara into drug runners. Quimare now runs from border patrol agents and rival cartel members. His speed, knowledge of the terrain and levels of endurance make him, like the product he runs, a valuable commodity. Running drugs helps put food on his family’s table. He is no longer running as part of a rich, historical tradition – today Quimare is running for his freedom, his family and his life.
In the end, we’re all running towards the same finish line. Unfortunately, some people are forced to run quicker than most. OPPOSITE An Indigenous Tarahumara man, from the fabled running tribe described in the book BorntoRun