When I’m in a slump, great running movies are one of my favorite ways to get myself motivated. I love movies anyway (I actually majored in Motion Pictures in college!), so it would only make sense that they would figure into significant parts of my running self care.
Want to know my favorites? Grab your popcorn and keep reading!
Spirit Of The Marathon
Spirit Of The Marathon is the quintessential running documentary. The award-winning film chronicles the training of six runners as they prepare for the 2005 Chicago Marathon. It’s really incredible to watch the stories of such different individuals, all working towards a common goal. Tension, heartbreak, and triumph all merge together in this one. And yes, there is a sequel, also available for viewing.
I had the privilege of seeing Forrest Gump in theaters, and instantly fell in love with Tom Hanks’ character, and the entire story. As Forrest falls in and out of a series of amazing brushes with historical events, runners can probably relate most to the day he just starts to run. He runs and runs, across the entire country. Forrest is completely oblivious to the people who literally follow in his footsteps, until the day he decides he’s finished running and ready to move on to something else. We see you, Forrest. We see you.
Brittany Runs A Marathon
Confession: I don’t actually love this movie. It’s a great, based-in-reality, story of a woman (Brittany) who gets a serious wakeup call in regards to her health and life choices, and decides to run a marathon. This is great, but the journey is plagued with obstacles and challenges, not least of which is Brittany’s rather awful personality. I found it hard to root for the protagonist, while also really relating to her journey and struggle. Yes, it’s worth a watch, and it is an inspiring flick, but it’s not as incredible as others on the list.
Chariots Of Fire
Chariots of Fire is based on the true story of two British athletes, and their journey to and triumphs at the 1924 Summer Olympics. This is a movie about personal sacrifice, religious devotion, overcoming prejudice, and sportsmanship, all set on a track. Bonus: the soundtrack. The main theme by Vangelis, is swoonworthy, empowering, and holds a place of honor on my own running playlist. If you know, you know.
Run Fatboy Run
Run Fatboy Run is a comedic foray into marathon running, starring Simon Pegg and Hank Azaria. This hilarious and truly great running movie follows Dennis Doyle, a man who has spent his life running away from every challenge he’s faced. In a last-ditch attempt to win back the mother of his son and woman of his dreams, he decides to run the London Marathon. Through his training, Dennis finds himself, a support system he never knew he had, and the strength to face his fears. Does he conquer 26.2 miles? You’ll have to watch to find out!
To be honest, the cinematic retelling of the Jesse Owens story is an uncomfortable watch. The 1930s were an ugly time, not only for Germany, but for the United States and many other countries in the world. It’s gut-wrenching to see racism and prejudice play out, even among the people and characters we might consider “heroes.” However, all it takes is one person to fly (or run) in the face of that ugliness to start the turning of the tide. Race is one of the great running movies that will get you fired up, and serve as a reminder to always stand up for what’s right.
I confess that McFarland USA brought me to sobs in a crowded a crowded movie theater. McFarland USA tells the true story of Coach Jim White, who built a cross country team at a high school in one of the most economically challenged cities in the country. The focus here is family, loyalty and making the best out of seemingly hopeless situations. It’s also so inspiring to see what these men are doing now to pay it forward. If this is on TV, I will watch it.
The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young
This incredible documentary is something I can (and do) watch on repeat. The entire story of this race, from its history to its implementation, is nothing short of fascinating. Ultra running (and runners) are so fascinating in their quest to push themselves beyond reasonable limits, and I truly can’t get enough of the tale of athletes who set out on a truly hellish race. Wrap your head around the fact that there are years with no finishers at all! Will you be there when Laz lights his unfiltered Camel at the yellow gate?
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Have you watched any of these great running movies? What’s your favorite?