Four runners. Four stories. One goal. The main idea driving the Building on Belief six-part video series for the TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon was to humanize the marathon experience. From the time our four runners register to when they cross the finish line, the goal of the series was to showcase the emotion and spirit that goes into training for a marathon (or half marathon). We wanted to showcase the journey of four unique people with unique life stories all chasing the same goal – to run a marathon.
Each episode of the documentary series dives deeper into what it takes for these runners to train for their respective races. The goal of this series is to also show that running is so much more than putting one foot after the other.
We also wanted to show the diversity that makes up both the running world and the city. We wanted to show that running is accessible, and that despite challenges and obstacles, running a marathon is something everyone can do. Lastly, we wanted to demonstrate that while running is a solo sport, it truly is rooted in community
Building on Belief was brought to life solely by the runners who were profiled in the series. Each runner offered such a rich and emotional approach to how and why they decided to train for the marathon – which truly served as the focal point of the series.
With a limited number of episodes, and a need to keep the length of each episode just under 10 minutes, we realized we had to captivate the audience quickly, hold their attention and leave them wanting to hear more. We achieved this by selecting runners with tremendous reasons to run and whose goals were to help other people along their running journeys, or to introduce people in their communities to running.
When it comes to filming, our goal was to establish a genuine intimate connection with these runners. To achieve this, we kept our crew minimal for the majority of shooting, consisting primarily of just the director and the cinematographer. This approach was essential because we were entering their personal space and wanted the runners to feel comfortable and not overwhelmed with the cameras and crew.
To maintain the authenticity of Building on Belief, we worked very closely with our runners to keep track of their individual schedules over the 6-month period. We were committed to being available for any significant events or last-second changes that might arise. Juggling these four unique stories and timelines simultaneously was extremely difficult, but it was overcoming these hurdles by working long days, early mornings and late nights that made the process of capturing these individuals extraordinary. By the end of their journey, our crew was so invested in their stories and ultimately felt like an extended part of their family.
One primary technical hurdle we encountered involved how to capture the runners during their training sessions in certain locations and with such a nimble crew. Overcoming this challenge, we utilized various methods: filming from a car, using city bikes and even running alongside them. This created a humorous bond between the runners and our cinematographer, often poking that the cinematographer is indirectly preparing for his own marathon with all the extensive running required to capture their training sessions.
We consider the Building on Belief documentary series to be a resounding success! The series was viewed by 134k individuals on Canada Running Series channels (IG, FB, YouTube, and CBC sports) & over 3.1M impressions across Runners World platforms, and went a long way to deepen the lay persons understanding and appreciation for marathon running. Further underscoring the success of the series is the fact that CBC Sports featured the documentary on their website and social channels.
We truly believe that the feelings of trepidation, motivation, perseverance, and accomplishment (and joy) that each runner experienced during their training, and leading up to race day was palpable by the viewers. The storytelling by each runner around a simple sport that involves feet hitting the ground exposed just how much heart and soul goes into running a marathon.
By going deep and asking our runners the tough questions, we were able to access the vulnerable and pure feelings related to their journeys.