Ultra runner Nikki Kimball faces her ultimate challenge on Vermont's 273 mile Long Trail.

  • Who is Nikki Kimball?
    Who is Nikki Kimball?


    Nikki Kimball is a life long student of endurance sports who was born and raised in Chittenden, Vermont. Primarily a cross country ski and bicycle racer from childhood through her early twenties, Nikki’s athletic focus shifted toward competitive running during graduate school. She began her professional careers in both physical therapy and ultra running in 1999 while living in New York’s Adirondack Park. Here on the rocky, muddy, root-strewn mountains of upstate New York she honed her skills as one of the best technical trail runners in the world. On the physical therapy front, she studied the mechanics of running and treatment of running injuries. Along with a local orthopedic surgeon, she created “The Running Clinic, ” a multidisciplinary monthly consultation service for local running athletes. Nikki moved to Bozeman, Montana in 2004 to have access to new trails and more athletes with whom to share her love of trail running. Her career highlights include membership on 14 US National Teams across three running disciplines, three time winner of both North American and USA Track and Field Association’s Ultrarunner of the Year awards, several National Championship titles and a World Cup team gold medal in 100km road racing. Nikki's raced on five continents over terrain ranging from asphalt to rain forest floor, cobblestones to snow. She regularly speaks at The North Face Endurance Challenge events and for various running and civic groups, and leads trail running and yoga adventures with Molte Yoga Retreats.

    Personal Statement

    I love endurance sports. Skiing, cycling, running and hiking shaped my life in countless positive ways. I began my first sport, cross country skiing, not with goals of competing, but rather with the goal of training to simply walk. As a toddler my hips turned inward, preventing the bipedal exploration common to my peers. My parents oversaw months of casting and bracing prescribed to realign my legs. On the conclusion of those months my physical therapist suggested cross country skiing as further therapy to help my muscles accommodate to my new found proper alignment. The rationale was simple: skiing would give me two choices, keep my feet straight and I could glide forward or allow my feet to slip back to their inward position and I would fall. Apparently I chose gliding over falling.

    I do not remember my therapy or my first days of skiing. I do know though that the therapy treatment and those early ski days were the best gift I’ve ever received. I was lucky enough to be born to involved parents who sought out excellent care for their daughter, and this allowed me to participate sports. Throughout my life I met people, like the therapist I cannot remember, whose actions or words resulted in incalculable positive affects on my life. Some of these people I never even met. Kathrine Switzer, for example, along with countless other women of the generations preceding mine, helped to create space for women in sport. Members of the 1970’s and 80’s U. S. Ski Teams inspired me to train seriously toward athletic goals. My high school ski coach, Phil Peck showed me that with athletic success and all the opportunity I’ve enjoyed in my life, come responsibilities.

    These people are part of who I’ve become. Endurance sports keep me fit and happy. My racing allows me to raise money for causes I care about. My racing resume, in combination with my work as a physical therapist led to my writing several article for Runner’s World advising other athletes to maintain good running health. It is interesting that in the sea of people I’ve met throughout my life, I can isolate several individuals who gave me the tools to live a healthy life and whose influence allowed me my proudest achievements. I want to pay these people back by helping others to discover the value of exercise and sport.

    Going into my Long Trail project I had performance goals: breaking the women’s fastest known time (FKT) and breaking the overall FKT. I also had the goal of raising awareness of trail running. hiking and the opportunities we all have to explore our own backyards. To this end, I partnered with Girls on the Run, VT and She Can! in Montana to raise money for the work these groups do to introduce young people to endurance sports. The fact that a documentary film company wanted to chronicle the expedition and the training leading up to it, added to the potential reach of my project.

    My greatest hope with respect to this project is that some who’ve followed it, particularly those not yet exposed to running or hiking, will incorporate these activities into their lives and be healthier and happier for it.

Help us finish this film!


"Finding Traction" presents the inspirational story of ultra runner Nikki Kimball and her quest to become the fastest person in history to run America's oldest hiking trail, the 273-mile Long Trail. The documentary asks what drives her to attempt such an incredible feat, and follows Nikki's journey from its beginning - training and racing in the Rocky mountains - to her actual record attempt through Vermont's beautiful but brutal Green Mountains. Throughout the film, Nikki's crew and support team provide an intimate portrayal of the courage, grit, and passion behind her record attempt, and interviews with the world's leading evolutionary biologists, including Bernd Heinrich, author of "Why We Run," shed light on the science and psychology behind Nikki's incredible race against time. For Nikki, this well-publicized run is more than a chance to inspire people to be active and spend time outdoors, it's her way of encouraging women and girls to take an equal place for themselves in professional sports. In addition to providing an inside look into the journey of an elite athlete, "Finding Traction" gives viewers a new perspective on the endurance of the human body and spirit, and informs us all us, regardless of our sex, of our true potential and inspires us to reach it.



Community Partners

The Filmmakers

  • Jaime Jacobsen
    Lead Producer and Director
    Jaime Jacobsen
    Lead Producer and Director

    Jaime Jacobsen is an independent filmmaker who is passionate about using film to cultivate conversation on the pressing issues of our times. Her films have explored the politics of gender and identity, as well as contemporary social justice issues through the eyes of Native American youth and elders in the Rocky Mountain West and women in diverse communities across the globe. Jaime’s previous films include "The Water Carriers," about an engineering student’s work to bring clean water to schoolchildren in Kenya (Silver Telly Award, 2008), "Homefront: United or Divided," Montana PBS' companion program to Ken Burns' "The War" (Regional Emmy Award Nomination, 2008) and "Montana Fare," about food politics and culture in rural Montana (College Emmy, 2010). Most recently, Jaime worked as a Field Producer on the Emmy-Award winning film "Indian Relay"(Independent Lens, 2013). She currently teaches filmmaking as an Assistant Professor of Media Studies at Notre Dame University – Louaize in Beirut. Prior to moving to Lebanon, Jaime taught in the Honors College at Montana State University, where she obtained a MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking.

  • Aaron Pruitt
    Executive Producer
    Aaron Pruitt
    Executive Producer

    Aaron Pruitt is the Associate General Manager and Director of Content for Montana PBS, providing editorial leadership for the statewide public TV service and reviewing thousands of hours of programming from national and local sources. Pruitt serves as executive producer for many Montana PBS productions including the news-public affair series, "Montana Focus" and the music performance program, "11th and Grant with Eric Funk" as well as documentaries like the award-winning "Class C: The Only Game in Town." Pruitt often collaborates with independent filmmakers, and has distributed programs to PBS, such as "Wolves in Paradise" (PBS Plus), "Before There Were Parks: Yellowstone and Glacier Through Native Eyes" (PBS NPS), "Fort Peck Dam" (PBS Plus) and two PBS Independent Lens documentaries, "Butte America" and "Indian Relay." With 20 years’ experience, Pruitt understands the PTV audience, the educational mission of public television as well as the editorial and technical processes for guiding projects through the PTV system.

  • Charles Dye
    Charles Dye

    A competitive distance runner in high school and college, Charles was immediately drawn to the story of "Finding Traction." Currently teaching cinema production at Virginia Tech, Charles’ most recent film,"Indian Relay," won two regional Emmy awards and aired on PBS' Independent Lens in 2013. His earlier work includes the Emmy winning "Before There Were Parks: Yellowstone and Glacier Through Native Eyes," "A Cat Called Elvis" -- the #1 downloaded podcast on the Webby Award-winning www.lifeonterra.com, "Last of the Gum Men," which aired nationally on PBS via NETA satellite in 2003, and "Saving the Snow Leopards of Mongolia," which aired worldwide on the National Geographic Channels in 2002.

  • Rick Smith
    Rick Smith

    Rick Smith's award winning work has been featured in numerous fiction and documentary films. He has worked as producer, cinematographer, and photographer for a variety of non-profits, governmental agencies and broadcast entities including PBS, National Geographic Television, Yellowstone National Park, and The Nature Conservancy. Smith's films have been the official selection at dozens of film festivals and his film 2006 short film "Fish and Cow" was a newcomer finalist at the 2007 Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival as well as a recipient of the 2008 International Wildlife Film Festival Montana Filmmaker Award. Most recently, his work on the MontanaPBS film "Before There Were Parks" received a 2010 Northwest Regional Emmy Award for Best Cinematography. For Grizzly Creek Films' America the Wild series and PBS's upcoming film "Indian Relay", Rick continues to push the technical envelope of imagery through the use of DSLR timelapse, remotely triggered infrared cameras, and high-speed photography.

  • Danny Schmidt
    DP, Co-Producer
    Danny Schmidt
    DP, Co-Producer

    Danny Schmidt is a Montana-based producer, director and cinematographer whose credits include National Geographic, PBS, NASA, and a variety of environmental and science groups around the world. His passion for adventure, storytelling, and cinematography has taken him to the high-mountain huts of Japan's top sword makers, to the tropical jungles of Colombia's Caribbean coast. His work has been featured in festivals around the country and in 2011, his film "Feeding the Problem" was nominated for the Best Newcomer Award at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. Schmidt's background in art and science leaves him uniquely poised to communicate issues of scientific and environmental significance in a way that captivates and entertains audiences.

  • Stefanie Watkins
    Stefanie Watkins

    Stefanie has been editing factual shows and films for over eight years, specializing in natural history and documentary programming for the BBC, Discovery, National Geographic, and PBS, to name a few. She now lives in the UK, but continues to work in the US whenever she can. Since moving abroad, she has been editing for landmark series like "North America" on the Discovery Channel, and "Planet Earth Live" on BBC 1, as well as sports series like "Spirit of Sport" on ESPN Stars. She has also worked as an editor and writer for the Nat Geo Wild series, "America the Wild," and spent five years as a lead editor and astronomy producer at NASA.

  • Devon Riter
    Devon Riter

    Devon Riter has edited, directed and produced a variety of non-fiction programming for universities, environmental groups, broadcast and web outlets. Devon's previous career as a chemistry teacher and researcher has instilled a unique ability to communicate complex scientific topics in an artful and appealing way. Devon enjoys using his skills in information design to weave technical story lines into compelling and entertaining narratives.

  • Tyler Duke
    Tyler Duke

    Born and raised in Wilson Wyoming, Tyler has spent his life in the Mountains. From an early age he traveled throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. After graduating high school he went on to earn his BA in Media and Theater Arts and then his MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking from MSU Bozeman. While attending school he independently produced two documentary shorts through his company, Stormlight Productions. "To Kill a Wolf" which covered the controversy over the wolf re-introduction in Montana and "Death of the Fishermen" that portrayed the dying salmon fishing communities in Oregon and Washington. "Death of the Fishermen" earned three Telly Awards. He currently develops and produces compelling broadcast television series and one hour specials for domestic and international distribution. Now with Wit House Productions, Tyler continues to explore the possibilities that lie in the ever expanding realm of new media. His work has appeared on National Geographic International, The Travel Channel, Speed, OLN, Montana PBS and Rush HD.

  • Marguerite Keating
    Associate Producer
    Marguerite Keating
    Associate Producer

    Hailing from the South, Marguerite studied International Relations and Economics at the University of Arkansas before heading to University College London for a Master’s in International Public Policy. At UCL, she focused her research on the international arts and antiquities markets. While in London, she worked for Edelman and CNN International before coming back Stateside to work for NBC Universal. With the outlook of a corporate career looming, Marguerite wanted to more personally involved in the projects she took on (and she really just wanted to be somewhere with easy access to a chairlift) and made the move to Bozeman in the summer of 2012. Using her experience in film/television sales and distribution, Marguerite serves as an associate producer on the Colorburn team.

  • Jeremiah Slovarp
    Sound Re-Recording Mixer
    Jeremiah Slovarp
    Sound Re-Recording Mixer

    Jeremiah began his career as a location sound engineer on various films and commercials. In 2002 he started Jereco Studios designing his first commercial recording facility, and in the spring of 2010, he founded a second recording facility, Peach Street Studios. Today, Jeremiah is responsible for producing and engineering Post Production Sound, Live Sound, Music Recording, and Location Sound to many shows and events nationally and regionally, including Music on Main, Music in the Mountains, and Sweet Pea Festival. In addition, in 2010 Jeremiah was appointed the Audio Director of "11th and Grant with Eric Funk" television series on Montana PBS. In June 2011, Jeremiah earned his first Emmy Award for Audio for his work on the 11th and Grant TV show. Jeremiah has since earned four Emmy Awards. Current clients and past jobs include PBS, National Geographic, Microsoft, Disney, Pixar, Nickelodeon, Animal Planet, HBO/Cinemax, Comedy Central's - The Daily Show with John Stewart, and the Discovery Channel. Jeremiah is also an Adjunct Faculty member at the School of Music at Montana State University.

  • Bernd Heinrich
    Science Advisor
    Bernd Heinrich
    Science Advisor

    Bernd Heinrich is a renowned naturalist, ultramarathon runner, and an Emeritus Professor of Biology from the University of Vermont. He came to Burlington after his PhD studies at UCLA and ten years of teaching and research at UC Berkeley. From 1976-77 he was a Guggenheim and Harvard Fellow and from 1988-89 he was an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow. Heinrich has worked extensively as a researcher, publishing over 150 papers in scientific journals and a number of scientific and creative nonfiction articles in The New York Times, Smithsonian, Scientific American and Natural History. He is a best-selling author of a wide array of books, including "Why We Run: A Natural History" (originally titled "Racing the Antelope"). Heinrich was recently awarded the coveted John Burroughs Medal for his contributions to the field of naturalist writing and elected into the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Originally from Germany, Heinrich ran barefoot every summer throughout his childhood before coming to the United States at the age of eleven. He was elected captain of his Cross Country Team at the University of Maine, and started running marathons at the age of 40. Heinrich has won numerous long distance running events and set a number of open US ultramarathon and masters records throughout the 1980s. In 2007, Heinrich was inducted into the American Ultrarunning Association's Hall of Fame.

  • Don Demetriades
    Humanities Advisor
    Don Demetriades
    Humanities Advisor

    Don Demetriades, MA, ABD, is an Adjunct Professor of Philosophy and Honors Faculty Fellow at Montana State University. Demetriades has been teaching for over 27 years at a number of institutions, including the University of Michigan, Hillsdale College, Siena Heights University and Toledo University. Demetriades' course titles include: Technology and the Human Condition; The Philosophy of Human Suffering; Introduction to the Humanities; Aristotle, Good and Evil; Freedom and Responsibility; History of Philosophy; Texts and Critics; and The Art and Science of Medicine. He has been an avid and competitive distance runner all his life, with 39 marathons under his belt, including a PR of 2:25. Most recently Demetriades has run 15 ultramarathons, mostly on mountain trails, spanning in distance from 50K to 50 miles, and has set numerous 50 age group records. He holds the distinction of being one of the few people who have run a sub-2:50 marathon in five different decades. Demetriades is the founder and director of the Headwaters Relay, a run to the ultimate source of the Missouri in southwestern Montana, and the co-director of Bozeman's Lewis and Clark Marathon.

The film was funded!