The Trails are Free tells the story of how Boston based trail running club, the Trail Animals Running Club (TARC), promotes and preserves the culture of ultra running through a series of grassroots, community based races in the greater Boston area. The film captures the history of the club and how it has grown from a few members to over 4000 since its founding in the early 1990's. From its start TARC has been more focused on camaraderie and community among runners than on competition and winning. The club's motto "Leave No Animal Behind" exemplifies their welcoming spirit, as well as their humility, level playing field, and love for the outdoors. Trail Animals come from all walks of life and all abilities and there is no pecking order.
The club's rapid growth has mirrored a nationwide trend in the sport in recent years. Where ultra running used to be considered an oddball sport, it is now the subject of many books and is gaining more mainstream coverage in film and on television. The threat of this community spirit becoming consumed by competition and commercialization is becoming a realistic, legitimate concern.
In 2011 the club introduced the TARC Trail Series, a group of 10 trail races of varying distances, from 10K to 100 Miles. This film documents the ways these races have become a vehicle for preserving, promoting, and sharing the culture of the sport with new members. Race organizers keep race costs down by organizing volunteers to mark courses, maintain trails, and provide support, provisions, and food for potluck-style aid stations. First place finishers win handmade trophies. There is no prize money.
"The Trails Are Free" was shot on location at various TARC races over the years. It is quintessentially New England. There is snow, mud, peepers, rocks, roots, and bright foliage. "The Trails Are Free" is Lindsey's first independently produced feature length film.
Lindsey Topham is a photographer and documentary filmmaker living in Western Massachusetts. She has a Bachelor's degree in Film and Digital Media from the University of California in Santa Cruz, and a Master's degree in Photojournalism from Boston University. She has over 10 years of professional photography and video experience.