June 08, 2021 194 Comments

500 miles in just over seven and a half days - 7 days, 13 hours, 16 minutes and 15 seconds to be exact. That’s what ultrarunner Mike McKnight was able to do on September 20, 2020, on the Colorado Trail. His efforts were good enough to earn him a fastest known time (FKT) on the trail, which is what he was after. With the pandemic derailing his racing goals for the year, setting and reaching a goal like this, was exactly what McKnight needed. But his story is not just about completing a distance in a time that is unattainable for most in the human species. His story is by all means, a story.

Like each and every one of us, there is a story behind the story. It is a story of why we do what we do, and how we get where we are. For some, it is glamorous, and for others, there is tragedy involved. There is learning and growing amidst the moments when everything feels irreparable.

Michael McKnight taking a brief trail nap near Timberline Lakes.
Mike taking a 5-minute trail nap near Timberline Lakes on day six. - P.C. Matthew Van Horn

Michael McKnight has a story. It is a story of feeling broken and irreparable, and eventually getting to a point where he was no longer broken, but breaking through it all - and breaking records. His story was recently immortalized in a feature length film that is fittingly titled, “From Broken to Breaking.” The film was created single handedly by McKnight’s friend, fellow ultrarunner, and filmmaker Matthew Van Horn. According to McKnight, it was important to have his time out on the Colorado Trail documented, and not for the usual reasons some might think. According to McKnight, filming it wasn’t in an attempt to be the face of another accomplished athlete, to inspire others to be like him, or even to have the world see him and know his name. Documenting his story was for his family. “I wanted my FKT documented mainly for my children and future grandchildren,” he said. “I'm not a big journal keeper, and I felt there would be no better way for them to learn about me than an emotional film of me on a 7 day FKT attempt.”

Matthew Van Horn filming at Everest Ridge on Mt. Timpanogos
Matthew in his element. Brand photoshoot at Everest Ridge on Mt. Timpanogos. - P.C. Ben Light

The original plan was to have Van Horn come along, take some footage, and compile it into a 20-30 minute video. According to Van Horn, (who has only recently discovered a talent and love of filmmaking) when he reviewed all the footage, the story began coming to life. But it wasn’t just any story; it was a story that needed to be shared.“This film was really a labor of love,” Van Horn said. “As I started going through all of the footage, I knew I couldn’t do just a 20-30 minute film. The thing about running this far, is that there are so many characters involved. You have crew and family, and then you have the runner and his story. I felt like in order to do Mike’s story justice, I needed to involve the other characters. I found myself not only being a filmmaker and editor, but a journalist and writer. I’m really pleased with how the film turned out.”

The Storyline

If you do a Google search of Mike McKnight, you will learn his story. You will find out that he spent a lot of his life physically unhealthy. You may come across articles that talk about his ski accident that broke his back, and how he worked hard to rehabilitate his body through running. You will most likely see his name tied to great ultra running feats, namely winning and breaking the record for the prestigious Triple Crown of 200’s. What you won’t likely see is the journey and the behind the scenes characters. What you won’t find in a Google or even Instagram follow, is the emotion that goes into completing 500 consecutive miles. What you won’t see or experience is what it’s like to grow up with such little self confidence, that you feel like you’re broken. Try as you may, there will be no article or post that will allow you to understand what it was like to overcome those insecurities, and to find love and acceptance in a community, and most importantly, family.

Ultra trail runner Michael McKnight traversing the San Juan Mountains on the Colorado Trail
Mike at 13,000 feet traversing the San Juan Mountains on day two. - P.C. Matthew Van Horn

The film, “From Broken to Breaking” gives the viewers an insider perspective like no other ultrarunning film. And according to Van Horn, that was his goal from the beginning.

Making “From Broken to Breaking”

“When Mike asked me to make this film, I said yes immediately, but I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” Van Horn said. Van Horn isn’t a classically trained filmmaker. In fact he spent 13 years as an insurance salesman. An insurance salesman! During those years of calculating rates for homeowners day in and day out, Van Horn turned to trail running to bring a little bit of joy into the monotony. He found success in 100-mile distances — even finishing second at the Wasatch 100, and outright winning the Pony Express and Buffalo 100-mile races.

Matthew Van Horn, Taylor Spike, David Pila at Spooner Summit aid station on the Tahoe 200 course.
Matt filming Taylor Spike and crew David Pila at Spooner Summit aid station during the 2019 Tahoe 200. - P.C. Rob Urry

When he wasn’t at work or running, he devoted his time to his family. Van Horn is the youngest of nine children, and he has a wife and two teenage sons. But work got to be too much, and he took a chance at developing his creative side that he had long suppressed. So he picked up a camera. First it was pictures, and then video. He began taking on small jobs for local races. In fact, one of his first jobs filming was creating a promotional film for Matt Gunn of Ultra Adventures, who recently lost his life to suicide. “Matt Gunn was the first who really believed in me,” Van Horn said. “He let me learn and be creative. The film, 'From Broken to Breaking' is about Mike, but it is through my eyes.”

Matthew Van Horn posing at Red Castle lake in Uintah National Forest
Matt's alter ego Melvin Von Hornsby taking a break at film making workshop retreat in Uintah National Forest. - P.C. Señor Spielbergo

And if you watch the film, you will be able to see what Van Horn saw. You will see what it takes to prepare for a 500-mile journey, and you will see that things don’t always go as planned. You will see highs and lows, and the journey on the Colorado Trail. Through the eyes of Matt Van Horn, (who himself ran 70 miles of the journey with camera in tow) you will not only experience the journey on to the FKT, but you will understand why a person would subject himself to such an arduous task, and the support system behind him. Through his eyes, you will see Mike McKnight “From Broken to Breaking.”

If you like the video, please give it a thumbs up and subscribe to the 'The Low Carb Runners' YouTube channel.

Article author Arianne Brown is a mom of nine and a lifelong runner competing in anything from 5K to 50-mile races. She loves the written word, and using it to share stories the world needs to hear. For more of he writings, follow A Mother's Write on Facebook, and @ariannebrown on Instagram.


100 Responses

Beth Walters
Beth Walters

June 15, 2021

Amazing crew! Enjoyed watching.

Anthony Schlinsog
Anthony Schlinsog

June 15, 2021

That is really inspirational!

Beth Walters
Beth Walters

June 15, 2021

Amazing crew! Enjoyed watching.

Joshua Locke
Joshua Locke

June 15, 2021

Awesome effort and great film, it really showed your determination and grit!

Elissa Hammond
Elissa Hammond

June 15, 2021

He kept going no mattress what. This was a very inspirational video.

Jennifer Zuniga
Jennifer Zuniga

June 15, 2021

Super cool!!!

Michele Harrod
Michele Harrod

June 15, 2021

Woo kogallas are amazing!

ROBERT HUNT
ROBERT HUNT

June 15, 2021

Awesome

Linda Heger
Linda Heger

June 15, 2021

a real WOW

David Strawser
David Strawser

June 15, 2021

Very cool! Lets go!

Brenda Martinez
Brenda Martinez

June 15, 2021

Oh, how exciting! I can’t wait to see this movie. I love that you captured Mike taking a 5 minute nap on the trail.

Tiffin Z.
Tiffin Z.

June 15, 2021

Matt Gunn inspired so many….nice work, guys!

Jeremy Welwood
Jeremy Welwood

June 15, 2021

Mike is such an unlikely inspiration, from his childhood pictures, to his critical back injury. This film really made me feel like part of the journey. Thanks Kogalla for supporting the legends in this niche sport!!

Linda Eminger
Linda Eminger

June 15, 2021

This film was AWESOME! The scenery was exceptional, The story told is amazing showing strength in genuine life changes. Mike is awe inspiring!. Kudos to all the crew for their encouragement and all else to keep him on tract when things get tough.. It was scary when he started hallucinating, but so heartwarming how so many that he had coached or ran with him at other events helped encourage him along to complete his goal in record time. Having a very supportive wife to meet him with their child is a huge encouragement for any young Man. Way to Go, Mike!

Chris Repar
Chris Repar

June 15, 2021

I cannot believe this man was doing single leg squats on the trail 300+ miles in!!!! Absolutely amazing!

Issy
Issy

June 15, 2021

Awesome run! This was a great documentary that shows how hard we can really push ourselves.

Dan Hurst
Dan Hurst

June 15, 2021

Great film about what Mike is capable of. Super impressive. The film was very well put together. I’ve been recommending it to all of my running friends. Fun and inspiring.

Deb Clawson
Deb Clawson

June 15, 2021

Love the inside perspective of what it takes to go this distance. Well done – bookmarking the film to watch multiple times!

Steve Fredrickson
Steve Fredrickson

June 15, 2021

I love how Mike’s input is just meat and “a donut” and his output is straight up trekking and running mountains nonstop. Love this guy.

Jeff Klomstad
Jeff Klomstad

June 15, 2021

He’s truly inspirational to many. Blessed to say I know him.

Jeff Klomstad
Jeff Klomstad

June 15, 2021

He’s truly inspirational to many. Blessed to say I know him.

kathy agate
kathy agate

June 15, 2021

Mike is an inspiration! The article was very motivational and awe-inspiring!

Chris Biernat
Chris Biernat

June 15, 2021

Blessed!

Lori
Lori

June 15, 2021

Just Amazing. Love the inside perspective.

chad
chad

June 15, 2021

Great film!

Michael Leccisi
Michael Leccisi

June 15, 2021

My favorite part was when they panned the camera around to show the scenery, beautiful!

Mark Boeman
Mark Boeman

June 15, 2021

Great article. I’ve known about Mike for the last several years, but didn’t have any idea about what was behind the scenes.

Sherie Laframboise Eggemeyer
Sherie Laframboise Eggemeyer

June 15, 2021

What an amazing and inspirational accomplishment. You inspired me to make more videos for my children and future grandchildren. Great article!

Michael Justice
Michael Justice

June 15, 2021

What an amazing article and inspirational as well!>.. What an awesome way for your Grandchildren to learn about you!

Chip Glass
Chip Glass

June 15, 2021

Incredibly written! I greatly enjoyed reading the article and watching the film! Look forward to being apart of the next Mike McKnight and Kogalla adventures.

MarM
MarM

June 15, 2021

Inspiring!

June Gessner
June Gessner

June 15, 2021

So Awesome, loved seeing the trail in this way. All the struggles and the effort, unbelievable!!!

Bettye Halstead
Bettye Halstead

June 15, 2021

simply amazing and beautiful

Sharon Tapia
Sharon Tapia

June 15, 2021

My favorite line was “don’t forget to smell the flowers!” Love it….stay focus, get the job done, but enjoy the beauty along the way. I appreciated the scenes that showed how connected he is with his family in the midst of this very personal challenge. We can’t get through life’s challenges without enjoying the beauty and having good friends and family around us. I think this documentary showed how important all that is

Sam Whittaker
Sam Whittaker

June 15, 2021

500 miles in just over a week. Unimaginable! Got the film bookmarked and can’t wait to watch!

Paul M Countess
Paul M Countess

June 15, 2021

What an incredible joy to follow his journey through the lows and breakthrough moments to achieving this FKT!

Edward
Edward

June 15, 2021

nice

Matt Briggs
Matt Briggs

June 15, 2021

So cool to watch. So exciting and inspiring

CarolineG
CarolineG

June 15, 2021

So excited to carve out an evening to enjoy this video. Too often, these videos get cut down to the highlight reel – the triumphs, the wins, the glory. Even the “our hero struggles” moments shown are those that always turn right, in the end. We all know, that is not how life really works, nor distance running. Excited to be inspired by this real world view of a broken human, like the rest of us, triumph (and may still feel broken). Great stuff, TA for helping fund and bring awareness to this labor of love.

Jason Ayres
Jason Ayres

June 15, 2021

Incredible…. What an amazing story and feat!

Edward Jones
Edward Jones

June 15, 2021

wow! what a hike

Jonathan Levy
Jonathan Levy

June 15, 2021

Really awe inspiring!

Robert Heugly
Robert Heugly

June 15, 2021

Looking forward to watching this inspiring film

wes thee
wes thee

June 15, 2021

tougher than me, for sure!!

Lance Newland
Lance Newland

June 15, 2021

My wife and I watched this a couple nights ago and it was so inspiring! This is one of my favorite ultra films and will watch this many times for the story and the great filmography. So well done.

KIRSTIN LOCKWOOD
KIRSTIN LOCKWOOD

June 15, 2021

It is truly amazing what the human spirit can get the body to do. Wow!

Allyssa Jones
Allyssa Jones

June 15, 2021

I watched this film with my boyfriend last week and WOW, we are just so inspired and in awe! It was incredible to see the highs and lows that he went through. Props to his pacers and crew for supporting him along the way!! So amazing! I cannot wait to see what Michael goes after next summer!

Jessica Smith
Jessica Smith

June 15, 2021

Incredible…

Kathy L
Kathy L

June 15, 2021

Wow!! Such an amazing accomplishment!

jennifer galindo
jennifer galindo

June 15, 2021

Such talent and committment to getting the perfect shot everytime.

Karen
Karen

June 15, 2021

Such an incredible story! I grew up in Colorado and it was so fun to see mountains from home.

Zac
Zac

June 15, 2021

An amazing accomplishment by an even more amazing guy. Thanks for being an inspiration Mike!

Jonathan Freeman
Jonathan Freeman

June 15, 2021

Amazing!

David Barnett
David Barnett

June 15, 2021

What an awesome movie!

Penny Lane
Penny Lane

June 15, 2021

Am definitely catching this!

Vicki Davis
Vicki Davis

June 15, 2021

Fantastic! Entertaining! Enjoyed thoroughly ❣️

Daniel Ostrom
Daniel Ostrom

June 15, 2021

Wonderful film.

Elizabeth Sedic
Elizabeth Sedic

June 15, 2021

I love human endurance stories! Love the athletes and filmmakers/photogs who remind us all what us humans are capable of—which is so much more than we often think it is!

Cecil Vermule
Cecil Vermule

June 15, 2021

I’ve been looking for another good running documentary to watch. Thank you for providing some amazing content for me to fulfill the “need”.

Paul Bradley
Paul Bradley

June 15, 2021

Can’t wait to watch it.

Kristy Goss
Kristy Goss

June 15, 2021

Fascinating, thanks for sharing your story

Barbara Kachelski
Barbara Kachelski

June 15, 2021

Inspiring!

Craig Findley
Craig Findley

June 15, 2021

Can’t wait to watch the video!

Anonymous619
Anonymous619

June 15, 2021

Mike Is Pure Gold ! Amazing How He Can Handle The Nature :)

Greg Vanta
Greg Vanta

June 15, 2021

Mike is a badass!!! Thank you for showing us what the human body is capable of!!

Andrienne Filleaudeau
Andrienne Filleaudeau

June 15, 2021

The beauty of life is to experience it in all situations.

Kristian Gratton
Kristian Gratton

June 15, 2021

Atta boy Mike! You continue to inspire! Good on ya.

Ward Pettenger
Ward Pettenger

June 15, 2021

Great film! It amazes me how someone can still move that well after so many miles and days. Also, I love the excitement of his son and the finish!

Wayne Adams
Wayne Adams

June 15, 2021

So awesome!

Mike McClellan
Mike McClellan

June 15, 2021

Pretty cool movie. I love what “amateur” film makers can crank out these days.

Vivienne Treharne
Vivienne Treharne

June 15, 2021

My favorite scene is the opening.

Jeff Pollock
Jeff Pollock

June 15, 2021

Soooo motivational! Very impressive.

Bill Curry
Bill Curry

June 15, 2021

Way to go, Mike! What an effort! Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

Jan
Jan

June 15, 2021

Thank you for sharing this great article and amazing film! So inspiring! Best wishes to Mike and team on your next FKT challenge!

Mike Formaini
Mike Formaini

June 15, 2021

Outstanding and inspirational!

Kristen S
Kristen S

June 15, 2021

I really enjoyed this article. Thanks for sharing!

Leslie
Leslie

June 15, 2021

I enjoyed the article as well as the movie. My biggest takeaway is in The Storyline….‘the emotion into completing…..this experience that is hard to put into words as it is so ’raw’ in the moment of an ultra…and in reading it is those insecurities, life experiences, where your head is and keeping it focused forward…the emotion…pain….anguish you have to fight through….powerful and relateable to the ultra runner. Thank you for a great production.

Karen Webster Hunt
Karen Webster Hunt

June 15, 2021

So great. Thank you for sharing!

Me
Me

June 15, 2021

Good thing he had a capable and reliable lighting system for all those night hours. One less thing to worry about. :)

Kalina
Kalina

June 15, 2021

Wow. This film was absolutely incredible. MvH did an outstanding job. It really tells an emotional journey and captivates the viewer. My favorite parts are when the film shows Mike laying down on the trail and then transitions to his back story. I thought it was so artistic and emotional. I also loved when his wife joined him to pace at the end for a surprise!

KBo
KBo

June 15, 2021

Outstanding!

Jeff Sanders
Jeff Sanders

June 15, 2021

Ready for the next FKT reveal… and the film that follows.

Brittany Watrous
Brittany Watrous

June 14, 2021

I found it really interesting hearing about his low carb diet and how that helped him when he had stomach issues in ultras. The issues he said he had are exactly what I’ve experienced. I also loved watching the planning process for this.

Brittany Watrous
Brittany Watrous

June 14, 2021

I found it really interesting hearing about his low carb diet and how that helped him when he had stomach issues in ultras. The issues he said he had are exactly what I’ve experienced. I also loved watching the planning process for this.

A. Huntoon
A. Huntoon

June 14, 2021

Initial impression: I want to be THAT GUY! I want to run on THAT TRAIL! After further reflection, I accept I’ll never live up to the drive, talent and determination of THAT Guy, but I have learned much with which to improve myself, and I still want to run on THAT TRAIL. Thank you guys, for creating and sharing the experience!

Lori Martinez-Smallwood
Lori Martinez-Smallwood

June 14, 2021

Michael and crew what an inspirational/motivational story. Starting with the diet to the endurance with pushing the limits on zero calories wow. But really everything in the film was awesome to watch. Gives hope. Thanks for sharing and training others!

John Barton
John Barton

June 14, 2021

Mike is a GOAT in the distance running community.

Ryan M.
Ryan M.

June 14, 2021

Inspiring

Linda Eminger
Linda Eminger

June 14, 2021

Mike this is absolutely amazing what you accomplished. The weight loss and the life style changes you made were life changing. Now you have your young son to set the best example for. I can’t even imagine hiking in that elevation, let alone running the trail. Way to go! Congrats, Signed Backpacking Great Grandma

Susan Haag
Susan Haag

June 14, 2021

This film was amazing! My fave part was a combination of the scenery and his love of the donut! I agreed it prolly led to his knee/quad pain! He is an exceptional athlete who surrounded himself with a great crew! I’m now intrigued with ultra running more than I was and look forward to his next FKT attempt!

Aaron
Aaron

June 14, 2021

Great accomplishment! Thank you for sharing your story.

tom holloway
tom holloway

June 14, 2021

Wow, what a great accomplishment and a great story!

Sandy Tsoi
Sandy Tsoi

June 14, 2021

Awesome film and so inspiration. I really enjoyed how the film.

Sandy Tsoi
Sandy Tsoi

June 14, 2021

Awesome film! So inspiring. I really enjoyed the film.

Diana
Diana

June 14, 2021

I love stories like these, they motivate me to become better then I am, even when it feels impossible.

Matt baker
Matt baker

June 14, 2021

You are an animal

Jennifer George
Jennifer George

June 14, 2021

Wow! Great job Matt!

Richard R Reeves
Richard R Reeves

June 14, 2021

I’m 66 years old. I live in San Antonio, Tx. I had both of my hips replaced in 2018. In 2020, I worked the US Census as a Census taker. After completing San Antonio, I was invited to join a team to Census Colorado. For almost 3 weeks, I spent EVERY day tromping around Colorado above 10’000 feet. The region is truly inspirational and I can understand how Mike can regain his health for the chance to visit this region.
Way to go Mike!

David Zenger
David Zenger

June 14, 2021

WOW!

Donna
Donna

June 14, 2021

2 thumbs up!

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