Spirit of the Marathon

DVD cover of Spirit of the Marathon

I’ve watched a lot of films that deal with running.   Almost all were films that fictionalized and over-hyped Olympic track and field events.  Take, for example, the inaccuracies in Chariots of Fire, probably the most famous of running movies, having won four Academy Awards including Best Picture. In the film, Harold Abrahams loses in the 200 meters before his triumph in the 100 meters.  The film makers probably wanted to hype the drama and rouse the emotions of the viewers.  In reality, the order is reversed—Abrahams wins the 100 meters before losing in the 200 meters, a sequence which undoubtedly is less dramatic.

I don’t like movies that pose to be factual but that actually manipulate historical events to manipulate the viewers emotions.  Yes, it’s entertaining but I feel that the film makers are pulling my leg.

As an aside, if you want to watch a good fictional running movie, try and find Jericho Mile, a 1979 Emmy Award-winning TV movie directed by Michael Mann (yes, the guy who directed Heat, Ali, and Collateral).  At least that movie did not make any effort to masquerade itself as factual.

But if you want a film that will accurately depict the challenge and the personal triumph of marathon runners, then you won’t go wrong with the 2007 documentary Spirit of the Marathon.

This film chronicles the journey of five marathoners who are training for and participating in the 2005 Chicago Marathon.  Interspersed between their tales are the stories of notable marathoners like Abebe Bikila, Frank Shorter, Alberto Salazar, and Joan Benoit.   The one thing I like about this film is that it deals with the experiences of elite runners (particularly that of  American Deena Kastor, bronze medalist of the 1984 Olympic Marathon) as well as the average and neophyte runner.  For example, there is Lori O’Conner who is running her first marathon, and Jerry Meyers, a veteran marathoner who is also 70 years old.  So this is a movie not just about the triumphs of champion runners but also of us mortals who want to survive a 42-kilometer run just for personal bragging rights.  Or even just for the finisher’s T-shirt!

Overall, a good inspirational film to watch if you have your eyes set at conquering the marathon.


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