The Paramount Theater hosted more than just a screening Saturday night. “Go On, Be Brave” was instead a celebration of endurance and tenacity. The nearly full house was treated to a pair of films that showed how pushing limits and breaking boundaries in the face of adversity can lead to empowerment and triumph.
The night’s programming kicked off with a showing of the short film “Who is a Runner,” highlighting the impact of the Charlottesville-based Prolyfyck Run Crew. The short film was followed by a feature presentation of “Go On, Be Brave,” a documentary tracking the empowering journey of Andrea Lytle Peet on her mission to complete a marathon in 50 states after receiving an ALS diagnosis. The event concluded with a Q&A panel featuring Peet, Prolyfyck members and Dr. Peggy Plews-Ogan, a professor in the University’s Department of Medicine and advisory committee member of the Hummingbird Fund.
“Who is a Runner” set the pace for the evening. Clocking in at just eight minutes, the short film packs a punch, emphasizing the power of visibility and solidarity found in community. Founded in 2018 — in the wake of the deadly “Unite the Right'' rally that shook Charlottesville in August 2017 — the Prolyfyck Run Crew takes to the streets of predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods in Charlottesville.
Founder Will Jones III encourages a diverse group to challenge themselves in a supportive environment.
“I don’t think Charlottesville is able to see itself,” Jones says in the short. “It doesn’t see the lives that are in it.”
The short film follows Jones and Prolyfyck undertaking an act of reclamation. The audience is taken through a community run step-by-step as Jones and others uplift a diverse group to push themselves beyond their limits. Members of Prolyfyck in the crowd emphatically whooped and shouted in moments of triumph, a testament to the group’s enthusiasm and pride.
Much like each time Prolyfyck runs together, Charlottesville was seen — and heard — in the Paramount Saturday.
Following the short, directors Miriam "MJ" McSpadden and Brian Beckman took the stage to introduce “Go On, Be Brave.” Speaking briefly, they let their film tell the story of triathlete Andrea Lytle Peet. Diagnosed with ALS in 2014 at the age of 33, Peet saw her life upended. However, where others may have found despair, she saw a challenge to conquer.
Peet — aided by a recumbent tricycle and an infectious dose of optimism — travels across the country, becoming the first person to complete a marathon in all 50 states after an ALS diagnosis, raising awareness and funds for the cause along the way. On her journey, she is accompanied and supported by a range of friends and members of Team Drea, her foundation dedicated to research towards a cure to ALS. The massive undertaking is encapsulated in just a brisk hour and 50 minute runtime.
The film’s style is eclectic, featuring a blend of gorgeous, sweeping drone shots, helmet-cam point-of-view sequences and everything in between. Both the massive scope of the years-long journey and its intimate details are given equal attention. While Peet’s joy and humor shine through, McSpadden and Beckman ensure the audience feels the strain of the epic undertaking.
Obstacles like a crack in the pavement snagging Peet’s tires are shown as Herculean challenges she works to overcome with determination and a smile. Professionals in the film repeatedly express their skepticism that completing Peet’s mission may only worsen her condition, but it is clear that she is determined to remain in the driver’s seat until she is forced out. Even when athletic boards and race directors reject her requests to participate in marathons, Peet simply forges her own path, conquering what was thought to be possible before her.
When Peet is shown completing the route of the Boston Marathon — a day early as the Boston Athletic Association denied her request to participate — she is joined by Prolyfyck runners to raucous applause. For both parties, it is about more than running and racing. As stated on Prolyfyck’s site, it is a chance to “hold space” — to show they belong where others think they do not.
In Peet’s 50th and final marathon, she faces a challenge as her knees begin to give out on the hills of a remote island in Alaska. With the support of her husband, members of Team Drea and now the entire audience, she grits her teeth.
“The body will go,” Peet says. “Tell it to go!”
Echoing a common refrain of the Prolyfyck crew, the Paramount erupted in cheers and applause as she conquered the hill and achieved her dream. After the documentary concluded, the crowd rose into an extended standing ovation as Peet took the stage for the Q&A. The panel fielded a range of questions about overcoming barriers and persevering through adversity.
“The worst thing to happen in your life does not have to define you,” Peet said.