It’s been a whole bunch of months, which must mean it’s time for another Shoeless Joe Interview! Martin Mudry is a local runner and filmmaker, so I look forward to hearing what he thinks of my cool footwear!
Shoeless Joe: Hi everybody! And thanks for all the kind words for my interview with Jodee Adams-Moore. I was actually reprimanded though at the most recent SRC board meeting and told under no circumstances was I to submit a 4th consecutive interview without a card-carrying Seattle Running Club member. (I was also told to stop talking about being reprimanded at SRC board meetings, so this will be the last time, apologies).
I found a cool dude who’s not only worn the pretty blue singlet, but is an actual filmmaker. Martin Mudry has worn our colors the past couple XC seasons and he’s the co-director of a new documentary, “Where Dreams Don’t Fade” which follows three hopeful distance runners in their respective quests to make a living as a runner in the ultra-competitive running town of Kenya.
Martin, thanks for talking to me!
Martin Mudry: Glad to be here.
SJ: Cool! I know I said “talking” but this time we’re actually *writing* each other via email! Martin lives way over in the college district so I haven’t found the time to get out there from West Seattle. Why fight technology?! Who knows, maybe it’ll be easier this way!
So Martin, one of the things I’ve learned is that despite having worn the hallowed blue singlet, you’re actually relatively new to the area. Care to give us a comprehensive list of reasons why Seattle won out, and who she was up against?
MM: Seattle was up against some tough competition. Last summer I moved to Philadelphia to work on the TV show Political Animals. Prior to that I had been living in smaller towns (Colorado Springs; Iten, Kenya) and I really liked being in a big city again. But I also really missed the mountains. So as much as I liked Philly, I knew I would be heading west again.
SJ: So how did you get up here?
MM: Basically I drove up the coast–Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. I lived in LA in 2009-2010 and had spent a fair amount of time in San Francisco, but the Pacific Northwest was completely new. In fact I’m still getting used to the mountains here. When I was driving and first saw Mt. Shasta, I thought it must be a cloud because it was way too big to be a mountain. Rainier still seems bafflingly large when it comes out for the first time in a while. In the end Seattle was new, big, and within striking distance of plenty of trails and peaks. Plus the outdoor culture here is pretty cool. Los Angeles is closer to the mountains than Denver and yet most people in LA don’t even realize there are mountains near by.
SJ: Yeah, they’re too busy surfing or adding avocado to their fish tacos! On your drive up north did you happen to pass through Chico, California?
MM: (looks up Chico on google) I guess I technically passed it but I drove on I-5 straight from Davis, CA to Portland. I remember when I entered Oregon I got yelled at for pumping my own gas.
SJ: Ugh, don’t get me started! Next time just politely remind them that they had 13% more crystal meth-related “incidents” in 2012 than Washington did (nine versus eight!) despite having almost half the population. Then tip the guy 13 pennies and speed off singing “Black Hole Sun” as loud as possible.
SJ: How long after reaching Seattle did you find the Seattle Running Club?
MM: I found the group pretty quick. In Philly I had three months where I ran completely alone and I wanted to be sure that I made an effort to find other runners this time around. I tried a few different groups via MeetUp but picked SRC since the Tuesday night runs attract some quick people and the group is more trail-focused.
SJ: Did you run alone in Philly because the people there are intolerable Eagles/Phillies/Flyers fans? And did you learn how to make a proper cheesesteak?
MM: Being allergic to milk (since birth) meant no Philly cheesesteaks and no famous pretzels. And speaking of cake, surprisingly, Philadelphia, being a rough and tough kind of city, had amazing vegan desserts everywhere. Which made life OK. In terms of why I ran alone, I just didn’t do a good job of reaching out to meet new people. Plus I was working 60-80 hour weeks so it would be pretty hard to schedule runs at 11pm or 6am, which is often when I would run.
SJ: So if I read between the lines, what you’re saying is that for you, so far, Seattle destroys Philly…except maybe in terms of vegan desserts?
MM: Seattle is a pretty amazing place in its own right, and I’m slowly figuring out the vegan dessert crisis (PCC in Fremont has really good chocolate chip cookies for $1). But part of me really fell in love with Philadelphia. I describe it as Detroit meets NYC. It has both a super busy and dense downtown area and then all these burrow like neighborhoods of NYC but also has tons of crumbling ruin porn houses and factories, ala Detroit. It’s like the wild west. Guys on ATVs and dirt bikes will just fly around the not-so-great neighborhoods. Even the police acknowledged they have a non-pursuit policy since many of the drivers are under 18 and can out-speed the cops anyway on the narrow streets. So they just fly around at 60 mph. I also think of Philly as the LA of the East Coast in that it’s very patchwork-like; you’ll have a beautiful old building that no one even thinks twice about next to a generic piece of junk stucco strip mall. In any other city in the US, the old building would be preserved and highlighted, but since they have tons of stuff from the 19th and 18th century, it just get squeezed in with the next utilitarian design.
SJ: Wow that’s surprising! Everything I had previously known about Philadelphia came from this video, which admittedly made Philly seem pretty cool. Your pics paint a slightly different picture.
MM: I think that video embodies all my ambitions as a filmmaker. In fact, between knowing that music video exists and reflecting on Where Dreams Don’t Fade, I’ll probably throw in the towel on this whole film thing.
SJ: Speaking of your documentary, it’s a great inside look at what it means to train in a running-rich town like Kenya. How did you come to the idea of making this film?
MM: The idea for the film came when I traveled to the country of Kenya in 2007 to train with a group of professional Kenyan runners. I had the chance to live and train with former steeplechase WR holder Wilson Boit Kipketer and once I was there realized how little we (the West) knew about Kenyan running.
Even before I went, all I could find were tidbits here and there about running to school, running barefoot and training as a “way out of poverty.” The truth is much more complex and interesting than all that, both playing into some of the stereotypes and in other ways flipping things 180 degrees.
SJ: Yeah it was definitely much more “real world” than other things I’ve seen on the subject. Not to spoil, but one guy barely runs a step! That’s the real world though, right? So was it a worry of yours whether your subjects would be able to get you good footage, and tell their story coherently? Did you mail them the cameras with instructions & such? That sounds like a potential headache! I bet part of you wished you were there instead.
MM: (fake laughter) It would have been interesting to see what they would have come up with if we had them shoot the footage. But no, Alex Nichols (co-director) and I lived in Kenya for over 3 months shooting what turned out to be 42 hours of footage. We also did just a tiny bit of running; I think I averaged over 100 mpw for the 14 weeks we were there. Basically we would get up, film, run, maybe travel to another location by bus then walk a few miles, film, walk/bus back and run again, cook Ugali, upload footage, and call it a day.
SJ: Oh wow, you went there to film it too?! I did a little video editing in college (awful, self-satisfied look on face) and I couldn’t imagine flying out to Kenya at that age–24? 25?–and making a documentary that actually *looks* like a documentary and not some college project shot with a camcorder. How did the opportunity evolve and how did you and Alex go about choosing the three main subjects you ended up choosing?
MM: I met Alex on the Colorado College XC team. I was the only freshman on what turned out to be a pretty strange and talented team. Before I got on campus, I signed on to the team’s online training log (RIP runorgy.com) and thought it was a joke when I saw future teammate Tony (Anton Krupicka) logging 180-220 mile weeks.
My freshman year in general was a mixed experience and ultimately I transferred to Macalester College which is where the Kenya connection began. A teammate there was studying and volunteering in Kenya (unrelated to running) and literally bumped into some guys he thought might be runners. Turns out one was the Frankfurt Marathon Champion, another Berlin Marathon winner, and not to be left out – Wilson Boit Kipketer. Long story short, they invited him to train with them and when I arrived at Macalester I grilled this guy all about the experience. My sophomore year ended with me traveling to Kenya for the summer to live/train with Wilson’s group and ultimately the idea to come back and make a film.
I continued to keep in touch with the Colorado College crew and in 2010 with both Alex and I working various jobs in the film industry, we decided to plan our exit strategies and make the film in 2011.
SJ: Wow I have so many questions now and I know Win will yell at me if I go over my word count limit 🙁 So let me see how succinct I can be: Haze you? If so, how? First summer typical day? Cross fit? Food/energy drinks? How they train? Yes?
MM: No real hazing, but when I told people my 5k PR on my first day (15:11), they would outright laugh. Then they would sincerely ask if I was training for the World Championships in 2 months. That kinda sums up Kenya right there, the fact that a 15:00 5k is considered quite slow, and yet even runners who had run sub-13:00 didn’t think it was unreasonable for someone of my current ability to be aiming for the world stage.
Typical Kenyan training day: up at 5:45am, start running in the dark at 6am at 12 minute mile pace. At 6:15 it’s like someone threw a light switch as it goes from night to day; the sunrise is extremely quick on the equator. The pace would progressively speed up but depending on the day might only get down to 7-8 minute miles if an easy run, or I might be at race-pace effort (mid to low 5 minute miles) and dropped by the group 20 minutes in if they were going harder. If the morning run was just an easy run, then often there’d be a track or interval workout at 10am. And finally jogging in the evening at around 5pm.
One big thing in Kenya was having to learn to run slow. Sometimes an evening run would average at 9-10 min mile pace, and this is with a 2:07 marathoner and world record holder. The big thing is on a daily and weekly basis the runners would both run a lot slower and a lot faster than most runners do here in the US.
Cross fit had me laugh, but they *do* do some wacky workouts now and again, but most people did them sporadically after runs and not as a dedicated daily routine or anything. Food wise: a mostly vegetarian diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Tons of chai tea with lots of whole milk. Nothing extraordinary although they would claim that Ugali (a corn flour and water mix) is key.
SJ: Do you know what it’s time for??
MM: I can only imagine…
SJ: Thanks Martin, and way to go on the Speed Round! Can I ask you though…off the record, don’t worry–unless you answer a certain way and then it’s on the record–please tell me you’re at least sort of aware of the show Saved by the Bell.
MM: Not only am I aware of the show Saved by the Bell, I regrettably am all too familiar with being compared to a certain character. Of all the people in the world someone could say “Do you know who you look like…” I get Shia Labeouf (only if my hair’s short)…and Screech. That is all.
SJ: Haha! At least you can take solace in Screech being a genius who built a talking robot when he was like 12 years old! Who then…used that genius in ensuing years being Mr. Belding’s toadie in SBTB: The New Class. So…nevermind. But hey nice work in the speed round, Martin!
Getting back to more normal things, I still want to discuss your film aspirations as it’s one thing I can at least hold my own in conversationally, since I’ve used Adobe Premiere before and have watched people use Final Cut. After your experience in Kenya and the experience of editing a feature-length documentary, what do you want to do next? Another running-related subject, a new topic altogether, or are you completely burned out on film and you never want to work on another project ever again?
MM: Going into Where Dreams Don’t Fade, one of my biggest concerns was getting pegged as a running filmmaker. Alex and I talked a lot about what type of film we wanted to make and we both were clear that this time (opposed to Alex’s other film Indulgence: 1000 Miles Under the Colorado Sky on Anton Krupicka) we wanted to make a documentary for a general audience that happened to be on runners, and not a “running film.”
Before the film festivals I was told by other filmmakers to be ready for the question “What’s your next project?” as festivals can be a way to secure funding for a second film.
SJ: Like I just did!
MM: …right. I did not have an answer to that question then and still do not now. I was pretty clear that I did not want to simply make another film for its own sake. And while I wouldn’t rule out ever making a film related to running, it’s not currently on my horizon. If I have another idea I’m interested in then I may try to direct, or more likely produce another film some day, but if not I got a lot out of film between working on big films/TV shows in Hollywood and going through the whole process myself on Dreams. Currently I’m looking forward to moving in a different direction career-wise but supporting projects and young up-and-coming filmmakers in other ways.
That being said, we’re not done with Where Dreams Don’t Fade. We are teaming up with Kourage Athletics which is a Kenyan-produced running brand to do a tour of the film in the US. We’ve also had interest to screen the film in Holland and Kenya. A free public screening in Kenya has always been one of our goals so we’re really looking forward to making that happen in the next year or so. Finally I keep trying to pay it forward; I’ve already helped one stranger through Letsrun.com live and train in Kenya like I did, and am currently helping a Canadian runner do the same later this year. The film and my time in Kenya over all has been quite important to me and it all started by a few people willing to share their world with me. I look forward to continue doing the same.
SJ: That’s really big of you to help people on Letsrun, I can’t fathom being that friendly. Africa is a crazy mysterious country I hope to someday visit! How do you think your buddies in Kenya would take to me? Once I get over this surely-not Vibrams-related injury I would love to someday jog with them in the morning before getting dropped like a bag of wet doorknobs.
MM: I think they’d take to you just fine, minus your geography skills perhaps. They might suggest some motion control shoes though.
SJ: you mean like Hokas?
MM: I would love to see some elite Kenyans reactions to Hokas. Maybe that’s what they need to take to trail running; most don’t like pushing on the downhills.
SJ: Is there anything you wanted to ask me? (raises eyebrows, smiles obnoxiously)
MM: “Wait, we’re not actually almost done are we?”
SJ: Now we are!
My gratitude goes out to Martin for his patience and willingness and, in terms of the video portion, trust. I recently had the honor of being beaten by him in an XC race, but I was simply thrilled we were wearing the same singlet. Well, not the same one, that would be weird. We wore the same desig–you know what, nevermind.
Follow/Like Where Dreams Don’t Fade on Facebook to keep up with its release schedule.
I also thank my brother Terry for doing most of the heavy lifting with the above video as well as the as-usual photos, all for a cheap bottle of bourbon that he didn’t ask for.
Call for Comments
- Which is your favorite African country?
- Favorite American Gladiator?
- Dreams are a funny thing, aren’t they? Have you ever dreamed about me and/or Martin? Do tell!
Call for Support
- Did you enjoy this? Are you already a club member? If not, consider becoming a member! Our partner stores (Balanced Athlete and Fleet Feet) also accept cash and most major credit cards and are chock full of great xmas gift ideas!
- Did you not enjoy this? 🙁
All photos of Martin & Joe: Terry Creighton