Desert Runners is a 2013 documentary film directed by Jennifer Steinman that follows a group of non-professional runners that attempt to complete 4 Deserts, a series of ultramarathon races often considered the most difficult in the world. Their journeys take them through some of the world’s most beautiful places while pushing the limits of their minds and bodies. It provides a look into the mindset of endurance athletes, and the ways in which humans deal with both heartbreak and achievement.
Director Jennifer Steinman became interested in creating a film about the 4 Deserts series after meeting one of the participants at a nutrition conference. Originally it was to focus on just one athlete, but expanded to four just before the first race when Steinman decided she wanted to add more storylines. Filming for Desert Runners began in the Atacama Desert and continued through the four stages of 4 Deserts in 2010. From October 8 through November 8, 2011, the producers used the crowdfunding website Kickstarter to help finance the final portion of the film project. In 30 days they reached their goal of $25,000. With more than 80 hours of footage, the editors began putting the 90-minute film together in late 2011.
The film made its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June 2013, its US premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival in October 2013, and its theatrical premiere in the US on November 29, 2013.
On November 21, 2013, Desert Runners made its television debut on DirecTV's Audience Network.