Today, Run to the Source, a new documentary from Patagonia, launches across Europe.
The film charts the journey of Patagonia Trail Running Ambassador, Martin Johnson (MJ), as he attempts to set a new fastest known time (FKT) for the Thames River Trail. On the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, on 25 May 2021, MJ runs 184-miles from the Thames Barrier in South-East London to the source of the river in the Cotswolds.
As an athlete and a Black British man, MJ grapples with the gruelling physical challenge, while contemplating the history of Black people in Britain. As he runs he hopes his route – symbolic in its juxtaposition of city and country life – will help to empower and enable people from ethnically diverse backgrounds living in cities to explore the outdoors and wild places.
Run to the Source is interspersed with archive footage contextualising the experience of being Black in Britain over the past century. From the arrival of the Windrush Generation, invited from across the British empire to fill post-war labour shortages (particularly in the newly formed NHS), to the Brixton riots, and the weaponisation of race in politics during the 1980s.
Martin says, “Exploring the outdoors is enriching physically, emotionally and socially but history has created inequality and barriers which combine to prevent many people of colour from forming relationships with the outdoors, or even discovering it at all. I hope Run to the Source might prompt viewers to seek out some of the lesser known and shared histories of the lands around us, which have shaped our societies and the layers of privilege which exist within them.”
Matt Kay, director of Run to the Source, says, “Martin’s journey embodies a struggle, a movement, a progression. The film does not just focus on the question of whether he will beat the fastest known time, but documents Martin’s discovery process as he finds out about Black British history and how it relates to the outdoors. Through his connection to the river, love of running and hunger for knowledge, we learn both why he feels so linked to the outdoors and why, by default, many Black and Brown people feel so alienated from it.”
The film by Walks of Life Films was directed by Matt Kay, and produced by Patagonia, as part of Patagonia’s ongoing commitment to paint a more accurate picture of its community and their diversity. It features original poetry and original music.
The film premiered in London on 16 February and appears on YouTube today.