Seattle native Joe McConaughy, who set a record for a supported trek along the Pacific Crest Trail, got to see a documentary on his 53-day run.
Life has returned somewhat to normal for Joe McConaughy since last year, when he ran 50 miles per day over mountains, boulders and creeks for nearly two summer months.
The Seattle native, now living in Boston, has gained back the 20 pounds he lost and no longer suffers nightmares from having conquered the 2,663-mile Pacific Crest Trail in a record 53 days, 6 hours and 37 minutes for a supported trek.
On Sunday night, McConaughy, 24, sat with family and supporters in a Queen Anne movie theater watching a 35-minute documentary film of his quest, “Run for Colin”.
For more on the film, or to make a donation, go to the Run For Colin website at: www.runforcolin.com
For dates and information on the Trail Running Film Fest tour, go to www.trailfilmfest.com
“I’ve seen it before, but never up on a giant screen like this,’’ McConaughy said as he waited for the documentary to be shown at The Trail Running Film Fest, a three-day event that debuted here as part of a 39-city North American tour. “It’s pretty cool that this is happening.’’
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Joining McConaughy in the audience at the SIFF Uptown Theater were friends Jordan Hamm and Michael Dillon, part of a three-member crew that accompanied him throughout his journey from the Mexican to the Canadian border. They all met at Boston College, where McConaughy had been a distance runner, and filmed his run to raise money for the group Cancer Care in honor of his cousin, Colin, who died of neuroblastoma in 2012 at age 2.
A third member of the crew, Jack Murphy, is moving to Spain next month and was unable to join them. Murphy — along with the film’s producer and director, Dillon — shot and edited much of the footage and wrote and recorded its background music.
“I think the core thing I like about it is how well they capture Colin’s life,’’ McConaughy said. “In the end, that’s really the motivation for what I was doing and what I drew inspiration from.’’
The run, featured in a front-page Seattle Times story in August 2014, was also about physical and mental endurance. The film depicts that, showing eye-wincing footage of McConaughy’s ravaged feet and ankles, as well as veins visible alongside the rib cage of his emaciated 6-foot-4 frame.
McConaughy came to be known as “String Bean” by fellow hikers he met along the trail. And while there were plenty of jokes about that amongst the crew, part of several humorous moments contained in the film, the reality often wasn’t a laughing matter.
“It took me quite a while to get over it,’’ McConaughy said of his trail experiences. “Following the whole trail thing, I’d have a nightmare where I’d be in my bed and dreaming that I was looking at one of the trail maps. I’d (say) … ‘I’ve done 36 miles today, but I was supposed to go 48 miles.’
“I’d be ‘Where am I?’ And then I’d realize I wasn’t in my tent, I wasn’t in my sleeping bag. And I’d be like ‘Oh, God, I must have not made it.’ And it would last for one or two minutes, where I’d be running the logistics through my head, going ‘Where’s my food? Where’s my bag? Where’s my crew?’ ’’
McConaughy’s crew sometimes missed designated food drops, unable to hike quickly enough through the dense, rugged terrain. On those occasions, McConaughy had to keep pushing ahead. His weight plunged from 162 pounds to 142, though he gained that back and then some once his record-setting quest ended. He actually rose to 180 pounds before resuming running.
McConaughy moved to Austria to teach English to high-school students for a semester, joining a semi-pro basketball team there. Now back in the United States, he works for Education First, a company offering international travel and cultural exchanges for students.
He tried in August to set the “unsupported” record for the Long Trail in Vermont — a 272-mile trek filled with steep ascents and descents — but abandoned that due to knee pain after 85 miles and 1½ days.
The release late last year of the Oscar-nominated movie “Wild,” starring Reese Witherspoon depicting the Pacific Crest Trail experiences of author Cheryl Strayed, also helped McConaughy relive his trek.
Among those seeing “Run for Colin” for the first time was his girlfriend, Katie, who flew out to greet McConaughy on the trail last summer as he reached the finish.
McConaughy set out to raise $30,000 for Cancer Care and wound up raising $32,000 with help from a social-media blitz. Not all the feedback was positive, though. Some criticized his assisted record as being akin to “sleeping in a hotel room” every night.
“I can assure everybody that wasn’t the case,’’ McConaughy said.
He hopes the documentary conveys some of that.