New film follows Black St. Louisans who’ve run a marathon in every U.S. state and all 7 continents
The marathon hat trick is a goal that some committed distance runners aim for but few have achieved.
The hat trick includes running at least 100 marathons, a marathon in all 50 U.S. states and a marathon on all seven continents. Fewer than 60 runners have completed the feat, and only three of them are Black. Of those three, two are from St. Louis and even attended the same elementary school.
Their story is now a film, “We Are Distance Runners: The Marathon Hat Trick,” that screens Wednesday evening as part of the St. Louis International Film Festival.
Tony Reed, who directed the documentary short, is also one of the runners in the film. Along with St. Louis native and fellow Clark Elementary School graduate Lisa Davis, they buck the myth that Black Americans don’t run long races.
“I always saw running as representing freedom and not setting limits on myself,” Reed told St. Louis on the Air. He started running in 1976 after having been diagnosed with prediabetes. Since then, he’s run an average of three miles per day. In 2004, he co-founded the National Black Marathoners Association, of which he currently serves as executive director.
It was while traveling the country to run marathons that he met Davis, an ultra runner and Marine veteran from St. Louis. Their parallel life stories and love for running drove Reed to direct the documentary.
Davis has numerous stories about being questioned as to if she was mistakenly in the wrong race. “I have been asked point-blank to my face if I were in the right place,” she said. “I've shown up for [100-mile races], one after the other being the only African American there. [Other runners would question], ‘Why is she here?’ And when I finish, I finish well. It's like ‘Oh, OK, I guess [Black people] can do that.’”
In “We Are Distance Runners,” Reed connects his passion toward running to the memory of his great-grandfather Benjamin Coleman. “[My great-grandfather] lived the first 25 years of his life as a slave. … I could see him wanting to go further, but the slave master was telling him, ‘You cannot go beyond the gate and you cannot run,’” Reed said.
For more about “We Are Distance Runners: The Marathon Hat Trick,” including how famed St. Louisan Dick Gregory inspired both Tony Reed and Lisa Davis, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify or Google Podcast, or by clicking the play button below.
What: SLIFF Documentary Shorts Series “Documenting St. Louis”
When: 7:15 p.m. Nov. 15
Where: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (3700 Forest Park Ave., Saint Louis, MO 63108)
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Ulaa Kuziez is our production intern. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.