How did our ancestors survive the shift from trees to land, and evolve to dominate the planet? The answer lies in a remarkable ability we evolved far earlier than our powerful brains: humans are nature’s perfect endurance runners. Gemini-winning anthropologist Niobe Thompson takes a journey of personal discovery back in evolutionary time, in conversation with leading evolutionary biologists and immersed in cultures whose survival still depends on endurance running.

Niobe actually has a  PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge and a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Anthropology from the University of Alberta. From the highlands of Ethiopia, to the most remote place in Arctic Siberia, to the world’s toughest ultra-marathon in the Canadian Rockies, The Perfect Runner weaves cutting-edge science with gripping adventure, and leaves the viewer with a new and inspiring understanding of our common evolutionary inheritance as the running ape.

This documentary is more than a documentary – it’s breathtaking cinematography. Runners and non-runners alike will enjoy this wonderful and scenic documentary as Niobe narrates and stars in.

Running is hunting for food and survival. The toughest guys are those who take running as part of the job like in Siberia. “These people run all day long,” Thompson said. “They’re cowboys without horses.”

Endurance running is human being’s special gift. Humans are not the fastest runners compared to a lot of animals. But we can out-run any animal if given enough time to exhaust the animal we’re chasing. Our ancestors are persistence hunters who could run down other animals to the point of exhaustion. “Humans are built to run,” said Thompson. “On a hot day, we can outrun all the animals in our environment.”

Meanwhile, back in the town of Bekoji in Ethiopia, what makes Ethiopian runners the best runners alive? One of the secrets, Thompson discovers, is that most Ethiopian athletes start out running in bare feet. Retired schoolteacher and coach Sentayahu Eshetu, featured in the independent film,  The Town of Runners, where “running is a way of life”, remarked that “athletes are training without shoes.”

It is not complete if barefoot running is not discussed. Niobe also visits Dr. Daniel Lieberman, the father of the barefoot running movement, who convinced him (scientifically using biomechanics) to change his running style from heel-striking to forefoot-striking. The knee pain that he had been struggling with eventually disappeared.

Niobe concludes the documentary by deciding to be a guinea pig in entering Canada’s well known Death Race, a 125 km all-terrain extreme adventure race course on very challenging terrain including three mountain summits and 17,000 feet of elevation change.

“You’re capable of a lot more than you think you are if you train, if you spend less time at a desk and more time out there using your body for what it’s meant to do, it’s extraordinary what you can accomplish,” Thompson said.

Push your limit.

Here’s the full trailer for The Perfect Runner:

You can read more about behind the scenes filming on this documentary and training for the Canadian Death Race from Niobe Thompson’s blog. It is doubtful if this documentary will ever be broadcasted in the United States so they only way to see it is to buy the DVD. Learn more and buy the DVD at

The Perfect Runner DVD Giveaway
Niobe has shipped two DVDs to us in a giveaway: two lucky US readers will each receive a copy of The Perfect Runner DVD.

Simple rules: 1) You must be a US resident. 2) Head over to Facebook and ‘Like’ The Perfect Runner. 3) Just post a link back to this DVD review on Facebook (must be publicly viewable), StumbleUpon, or your blog and send the URL to:

All submissions received by Monday, April 23 at 5PM PST will be entered to win. Two persons will be randomly selected and results will be posted by Wednesday, April 25.

Contest is OVER.

Winners are: Cody R. and Sarah C.

Producer/Director: Niobe Thompson

Length: 45 minutes

*Product provided by Niobe Thompson. CMP.LY/1 Review

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