Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Running Films - Volume 1

Last year I entered 14 running races throughout 2013. About halfway through the year I discovered two documentaries about running that were both streaming (also on disc) on Netflix, and I watched both of them twice last year and once each this year whenever a big race day approached to get me psyched up for the race. Upon the third viewing of each however I realize I needed some new running films, so I recently ordered four more online so I have a little more variety of films to watch. I watched two of the new running documentaries so far, and thought I would share my thoughts of the two I watched three times each and two of the new ones for anyone looking extra inspiration before their next race, or to just get out and run. I plan on getting to the other two before the month is up, especially since June is our local communities' month for the #30daysofrunning campaign. I did my best to run every day last year, and the campaign has a strong social media presence among our town, so check it out for all you runners and non-runners alike! Enough prefacing, on with the set of four quick write ups!

Starting off is the first running documentary I watched last year and is easily my favorite I have seen of the four I am covering today, Spirit of the Marathon (trailer). This one came out a while back in 2007, and covers six runners' (consisting of both elite and non-elite runners) yearlong journey of training and preparation to the 2005 Chicago Marathon. Along the way it interviews many running luminaries past and present and smartly sprinkles in key moments of the history of running throughout the film. I think this one is my favorite so far because it resonated with me the most when it dedicated just as much time with the non-elite athletes as it did the elites and showed how far and difficult that year was for both types of athletes.

Spirit of the Marathon covers a ton of ground from the initial training stages of going out with running groups in weekly long run sessions, trying to stick to a smart diet, overcoming and succumbing to injuries, touching on the personal lives that led each athlete to pursue running, being in the right mental state and capturing the "runner's high" and brilliantly building up to the big race day by culminating in a abbreviated highlight version of each runner's experience in the 2005 Chicago Marathon race. Just a fantastic watch from beginning to end I cannot recommend enough. The sequel just came out last year, and I am saving it for the last of the four new movies I recently ordered to watch as it covers several runner's journey to a recent marathon race in Rome. If you have not already, boot up Netflix and start streaming away to get motivated!

Next up, and also on Netflix streaming is 2009's My Run (trailer). This one all about one individual by the name of Terry Hitchcock. The documentary starts off telling the tale of Terry's marriage and him being the everyday family man until he loses his wife to breast cancer and trying to cope being a single parent. The film tells the amazing story on how he became inspired to run a marathon every day for 75 straight days from his home in the Twin Cities all the way to Atlanta in time for opening ceremonies for the 1996 Olympic games in order to raise awareness for single parent families.

Terry is 57 at the time in 1996 and not a accomplished athlete by any means, so watching him experience his journey of training and going out on his quest with his children at his side as his support system is an unbelievable watch. He has everything in his way trying to stop him, with injuries piling up, some of his children backing out along the way, awful luck weather, and trouble getting the media to give his campaign any attention at all. How he manages to overcome all these challenges and hurdles is a test of the human spirit and shows what one gutsy and admirable 57-year old man will do for his family. High recommendation to watch this one too.

The first two documentaries are about an hour and a half each, while these next two hover right around the hour mark and are much quicker watches. First up I will cover The Last Mile (trailer) which is an indy documentary that hit last year. The bottom of the DVD case has the caption "Why do we do it? Why do we run?" That is the theme of the documentary as it interviews countless elite and non elite runners. This is a nice change from Spirit of the Marathon as I found it fascinating just to find the difference in what motivates former Boston Marathon champion Amby Burfoot to put on a pair of running shoes to the many similarities I share with the everyday runners it interviews as well.

It quickly bounces around dedicating a few minutes to each runner's story and what makes them tick, and is accompanied by a fantastic score and lots of well shot B-roll footage that combine with the interviews to keep me glued in the entire hour. Obviously it is not an in depth look at just one or a small set of runners as the previous two, but it accomplishes at what it sets out to do and I would say is a great supplemental watch to the other two films above. The Last Mile is not available from Netflix through streaming or disc, and I was only able to get it off Amazon for $12.95.

Finally, we have Marathon Challenge (trailer). This originally aired on PBS in 2008. It takes 13 everyday people who once were or never were athletes and now live sedentary lives and puts them in a nine month training plan to get them into the biggest race of the year, the 2007 Boston Marathon. I like the theme of this film, but I imagine PBS could have gotten a lot more out of this by making it a mini-series or a two hour film instead of just one hour. It feels like each of the 13 individuals has their own unique story to tell, and there is barely anytime to dedicate to each one and the near-year long journey they endure, because the film is quickly jumping around to the next milestone in training.

It does get the basic points across, and I especially like the opening scenes measuring the fitness level of each person through intense testing. It is also a interesting watch showing the unfortunate downpour that transpired for the 2007 Boston Marathon and what it is like to start in the back of the pack for the world's most famous marathon race, and each runner getting their finish line moment for all their grueling months of training. Marathon Challenge is not on Netflix streaming, but they do have the disc for rent there. It is a quick, 54 minute watch, and a nice condensed version of Spirit of the Marathon but I regret to say this one is probably the one I would watch last of the four films I am covering today because it is too ambitious for the time allotted.

Hopefully I helped open your eyes to some of the running films out there. Be sure to check back here later this month as I hope to cover two more running documentaries before #30daysofrunning is up!

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

21 Jump Street
Bounty Hunters
Captain America: The First Avenger
Field of Dreams
The Fighter
Veronica Mars

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