“Time is my blessing and my curse. I love when the time is short, but I only love it on the track.” A juxtaposition with time lies inside a sprinting event in track. You spend months training to run the fastest amount of time in one race—a single chance where the slightest miscue can cost precious seconds. Inside that space of time, nothing else matters but the race itself. All your problems, anger, blood, sweat, and tears, get compounded in a test of speed. Her coach, Dennis Mitchell, says that everything Richardson has gone through comes out within those periods of seconds. While the race is over in the blink of an eye, the clock of life slows down for no one. Sub Eleven Seconds is a short chronicle in the world of sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson right before the race that would qualify her for the 2020 Olympic Games.

Director Bafic and producer, the late Virgil Abloh, focuses on Richardson—deferring to a dark backdrop holding the camera tight on her face. Her trademark, unwavering confidence is present—pronouncing her name for anybody who may say it wrong and declaring that running the 100-meter dash is “the most expressive thing a person can do.” The short documentary ends with her trademark point as she ran to a 10.85 finish, but that is only half the story. While time is her best friend at the starting blocks, she describes it as her “worst enemy” in her personal life. When the starting gun goes off, everything and everyone gets suspended in that moment—however, as Richardson expresses, you never know if time will take something or someone from you.

After her qualifying race, Richardson revealed that her birth mother had passed away the week before in a post-race interview. Her grandmother, who she credits as being a pillar always to do her best as a strong Black woman, was there to witness it. There you can see how the random nature of time has manifested in Richardson’s life. Sub Eleven Seconds basks in its poetic nature—beginning at 38 hours before one of the biggest races of Richardson’s life. As much as the short documentary opens the door of the road that leads to that day at Hayward Field, there’s still much for the sprinter to figure out. After all, Richardson is undefined, still holding the pen, writing her story with as much ink as time will allow.

Read our reviews from Sundance 2022 here

Photo Credit: Sundance Institute