Thursday, April 8, 2010

My Favorite Running Movies

The Distance of Truth (2008) A documentary about the Badwater 135 Ultramarathon. It isn't as affecting as Running on the Sun, but then, few running movies are. Here, we follow Canadian ultrarunner Ferg Hawke as he goes head-to-head with some of the most accomplished ultrarunners on the planet, including the legendary Scott Jurek. It's really a reflection on the power of the human potential. At times the narration gets a little too long-winded. The operatic score gets to be tedious. The movie tries too hard to be deep and meaningful, and all you want is for the director to let his material take off on its own, but he never does. Still, the subject matter is fascinating.

Running Brave (1983) Robby Benson as American distance runner Billy Mills is too bland to be of much interest. He plays Mills with a quiet stoicism that gets to be sort of boring. But, this is still a solid movie, very much in the tradition of Rocky.

Running on the Sun (2000) This is a superb documentary about the Badwater 135 Ultramarathon. It's not just a great running movie; it's a great movie, period. In it, we follow various people as they endure what has been called the toughest footrace on the planet. We get to know each of these characters and we hope they finish their race. We also get a sense of just how extreme this event really is. It is astonishing.

Running the Sahara (2008) Here is a wonderful documentary about three men who set out on a seemingly impossible expedition: a coast-to-coast trek across the Sahara desert. The film chronicles their ups and downs as they navigate the beautiful but harsh African landscape. It is a polished production. A great adventure story.

Saint Ralph (2004) A quirky gem about saints, miracles, and a fourteen-year-old boy who dreams of winning the Boston marathon for his dying mother. It's an inspirational and funny fantasy that has a lot of heart. Adam Butcher as Ralph has a natural charm. The movie captures adolescent awkwardness very well.

Spirit of the Marathon (2007) A great documentary about the Chicago marathon. We follow six competitors, old and young, elite and back-of-the-pack runners, as they train for the race day. This movie perfectly captures the excitement of a big city marathon. The actual footage of the marathon is nothing short of awe-inspiring. A stand-up-and-cheer kind of movie.

Without Limits (1998) Donald Sutherland is the reason to see this movie. He plays the legendary Coach Bowerman with a sincerity that is quite moving. Unlike Prefontaine, this movie focuses more on Pre the Person, rather than Pre the Public Icon. It doesn't take us long to realize that Pre the Person wasn't all that interesting. We didn't really need this second movie about Prefontaine, but there you have it. It's your average sports movie.