Running in the Movies
Two of my greatest passions in life are running and movies. There have been times these have conflicted, like when I want to stay up late to catch a movie on TV when I have to wake up super early for a Half Marathon the following morning. Currently all of my races for the foreseeable future have been; cancelled, postponed, or virtualized. This means cinematic running is the only kind of running I have right now and I am going to indulge in it.
Chariots of Fire: I wanted to put this one first simply so you can go ahead and get that familiar piano tune stuck in your head. Based on true events; Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, two young men who run for different reasons. While the Catholic Liddell runs for spiritual fulfillment, Abrahams does it to prove himself to his anti-Semitic classmates. In 1924 these two competitors are chosen to represent Great Britain in the Paris Olympics. While they are seen as the underdogs to the American team, the forces which drove them this far are still there.
Brittany Runs a Marathon: This Amazon produced film has quickly become a favorite in the runner community. Realizing her life is going nowhere, Brittany makes the decision to turn her life around and it starts by running. In a slow but steady process, Brittany enters the unfamiliar world of running and ultimately sets the goal of earning a spot in the New York Marathon. As one might imagine this is a long and difficult path, but those who enter Brittany’s life along the way are there to help her along. Actress Jillian Bell turns in an incredible performance as Brittany, portraying the absolutely real heartbreak and triumph which comes from the sport of running.
The Running Man: This movie is awesome and has “running” in the title. Featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Ben Richards who lives in a totalitarian state in the distant future of….2017. After being framed for a violent massacre, Ben is forced to compete in the death penalty/game show the Running Man. He and his allies have to navigate a gauntlet of stalkers looking to violently slaughter them them on live TV. Hosting this little game show, and bringing a sense of legitimacy, was real life Family Feud host Richard Dawson. This is peak, action hero Arnie running through a gauntlet of colorful killers, this is the kind of movie everyone should want to watch.
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner: One of the all-time great coming of age films. Coming from a tough working class family-life, Colin finds himself in trouble with the law and eventually lands at Ruxton Towers Reformatory. When he displays a natural talent for running, the institution’s Governor takes Colin under his wing. As the two grow closer we see through flashbacks the emotional story which led the young man to where he is. Seeing running as a means to find some kind of freedom, Colin agrees to compete in a marathon against a the top runner from a nearby school to show that his mentor’s methods of rehabilitation work.
Run Lola Run: Runners are often inspired by the thoughts of their loved ones. In this German fan-favorite Lola is inspired by her boyfriend, mainly the fact that he will be killed after a 100,000 Duetschmark deal went south. Leaving her 20 minutes to gather the cash, Lola takes off and we see three different scenarios which could unfold. Beats are the same but ultimately they seem to send as Lola catches up to her boyfriend who is robbing a market to recover the dough. This is a fittingly fast paced flick which has become a cult favorite.
Spirit of the Marathon: The Chicago marathon is one of the most prestigious races in the country and this heartfelt documentary follows six people who have earned their spot on the 26.2 mile course. From an Olympic medalist to a first time marathoner and everyone in between, each of these subjects has worked on their own path to the Windy City. Come race day each individual has a goal from placing first to simply finishing and you will watch with heart in your throat until the end.
McFarland, USA: I have a soft spot for Kevin Costner and he is fantastic in this film based on cross-country coach Jim White. After losing his job as a football coach, White moves his family to a school district where the student body is largely Hispanic from impoverished backgrounds. Despite friction between he and the students, the coach convinces the school to allow to form a cross country team. The growing bond between White and his students become threatened when he pops up on the radar of more affluent schools looking to take him away from his team of runners. McFarland USA is a perfect example of the feel-good sport movies Disney does so well.
Marathon Man: Featuring two acting legends in Dustin Hoffman and Sir Laurence Olivier in a movie about a runner who finds himself embroiled in an international conspiracy. While going to grad school and training for a marathon “Babe” Levy learns that his brother “Doc” is actually a government agent working with a notorious Nazi war criminal Dr. Szell the “White Angel”. Here in the United States to deal his ill-gotten diamonds, Szell learns of Babe’s connection to the agent he sets out to play a deadly cat and mouse game with the marathon runner. Marathon Man has become a certified classic over the years for good reason.