With Kevin Costner staring in Disney’s McFarland USA currently in theatres, Matthew McConaughey taking on the role of Christopher McDougall in the upcoming Born to Run, and let’s not forget about Angelina Jolie’s Oscar nominated Unbroken, films about runners are experiencing a resurgence in popularity. From stories real life runners who are battling the elements of nature to the light hearted tale of an ordinary guy just trying to do a little better every day, you don’t have to be a prominent athlete to appreciate the grit, determination and strength that’s at the heart of every runner. Available on Netflicks and iTunes, these five movies will have you longing for that runner’s high, no matter where you’re at in your training.
TRUE STORY: Prefontaine (1997)
Chronicling the career of American distance runner, Steve Prefontaine, in Prefontaine Jared Leto captures the charisma and single-mided determination of this legendary athlete, along with his self-centred demeanour. From college cross country runner to the 1972 Olympics in Munich, where he is defeated by Finish competitor Lasse Viren, the film digs into his tumultuous journey as an amateur athlete. At the time, funding support for American amateur athletics was dismal, while other countries were offering tremendous financial support to young athletes. As he prepares to return to the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Prefontaine rallies his teammates, and becomes an activist for better funding of American amateur athletics. Although Prefontaine may not have always been easily likeable, you can’t help but get behind the strength an commitment of this gifted runner.
HOT DOC: Running on the Sun: The Badwater (2000)
Every wonder what it’s like to run in hell? Neither do we. But with the current polar vortex, running in heat of any kind sounds pretty darn good. Beginning in Death Valley California, Running on the Sun is a documentary film that follows a group of runners as they tackle the 135 km Badwater Ultra Marathon. Challenged by the rapidly changing environment, think scorching 50C temperatures that plummet to near zero, two 5,000-foot climbs and a finish line that ends in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, the race is a coveted accomplishment for ultra runners around the globe. Relying on themselves and their fellow competitors for motivation as opposed to the cheering crowds, this film captures the strength of the human spirit while showing up close, what happens when the human body is pushed to its limit.
COMIC RELIF: Run Fat Boy Run (2007)
Five years after leaving his bride at the alter, Denis realizes he’s run away from his true love, Libby. After plenty of failed attempts to win Libby back (go figure) Dennis decides to get into marathon racing shape, an effort he hopes will show that he’s a changed man, one who has the determination and dedication not only required to run a 42.2km race but also handle going the distance in life and love. With a cast including Simon Pegg, Thandi Newton and Hank Azaria, directed by Friend‘s star David Schwimmer’s this romantic comedy offers a light hearted, if not heartfelt look at one man’s journey to reclaim the love of his life and unite his family.
REALITY BITES: Personal Best (1983)
Sports movies (especially running ones) are often focused on male athletes, but Personal Best digs into the reality of women’s athletics. Following a group of American female track and field athletes attempting to qualify for the 1980 Olympics, and when the United States boycotts the Games for political reasons, the athletes’ personal bests are their only reward. Beyond the competition on the track, the film also follows the romantic relationships between two fellow female teammates, Mariel Hemingway and Olympic hurdler, Patrice Donnelly, along with exploring the dynamics between female athletes and their coaches. Even though it was filmed in the early eighties, Personal Best still stands up in its honest depiction of the tenacious relationships within women’s sports.
HISTORIC DRAMA: Chariots of Fire (1981)
Even if you’ve never seen the film, the iconic theme song from Chariots of Fire has been a recognizable runner’s anthem for decades. The Academy Award winning movie follows the training and racing for two former competitors turn running teammates, who are hoping to represent Great Britain at the 1924 Paris Olympics. Although the film has been criticized for its lack of historical accuracy, it is equally touted for championing the value of remaining true to your personal code of ethics over winning at any cost.