Tuesday, May 5, 2009

REVIEW: The Spirit of the Marathon

On vacation now, I am trying to get the most out of my Netflix subscription as well as get through all those movies that "I'd like to watch someday when I have the time". Well, while I am waiting for the next set of discs to arrive, the "Instant Watch" is a great alternative. Yesterday, I found a movie I had not heard of before titled "The Spirit of the Marathon". Filmed in 2005, this documentary follows several entrants in the '05 Chicago Marathon.

The first thing I was taken aback by, is the incredible number of famous runners who have cameos or significant roles in the film. For example, Deena Kastor is one of the featured runners and she grants us a look into her home and training. We see her go through a period of rest and recovery as an aqua-jogger, the struggle of being such an accomplished runner without ever having won a major marathon, and the incredible race she ran in Chicago that year. But other running stars include Salazar, Rodgers, Shorter, Radcliffe, Beardsley, and more.

Daniel Njenga is another elite marathoner in the film. Originally from Kenya, the filmmakers show his journey from Africa, through Japan, and on the elite training circuit so he can support his family living with the strife and conflict rampant on that continent.

After getting past being star-struck though, I realized that this is also a great movie for anyone interested in running and completing a marathon. The creators develop storylines around the semi-pro, whose goal is a BQ [1], the first timers who are looking for success in something outside of their daily rat-races, and the sweepers [2] who run almost completely for the fun of it (but do allow for some dreaming of the own personal excellence).

The movie does a pretty good job of illustrating the scope of a major metro marathon with expansive flyover shots and a ground level flythrough of the course. There are images towards the end of people getting tired and stopping for stretch/walk breaks. While I recognize the fatigue they are feeling, I am not sure it would come across to the person who has not run 26.2. The history of Phedippides, the first marathon, why it is 26 miles and 385 yards, and more is also covered with a ton of great historical footage and photos.

The film is really enjoyable and I am seriously considering buying a copy to have on hand for inspiration when it comes times for my next 26.2

The movie website is: http://www.marathonmovie.com

[1] Boston Qualifying time, an arbitrary time based on age and gender set by the Boston Athletic Association to limit the field of runners to many many thousands, and as this movie points out, helped fuel the mystique of it being one of, if not THE, premier, marathon.

[2] Also known as back-of-the-pack-and-proud-of-it runners, people with a pace near the lower limit of the allowable time to complete the race. Amusing that the movie also mentions a guy who suggests that by running fast, you are not getting your money's worth and the slow runners get every last penny of value for their entrance fee.

UPDATE 7/26/09: Was browsing Hulu and found "Spirit" streaming free, check it out!

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