Friday, February 22, 2008

"Spirit of the Marathon" Movie Review

I missed the initial screening last month due to Navy duty in Newport, RI so I wasn't about to miss the 2nd and last theater screening. Nationwide, it was broadcast to select theaters via satellite at 7:30pm local time. Turns out, it was sold out in Akron last month and last night, another great crowd showed up. It was a mixed crowd of veteran marathoners and novices alike....kinda had the "atmosphere" present at the starting line of many of my past marathons. It's always a thrill to be in the same room with complete strangers while at the same time having so much in common....the desire, the drive, the goal...to cover 26 miles, 385 yards.

On with the review: First off, if you missed it...not to worry. It will be released on DVD this summer. To get on the e-mail newsletter list for future news, sign up at the movie's website.

Don't worry! No spoilers in this review!

The movie is shown in documentary format and has at it's core, the goal of completing the 2005 Chicago Marathon, held each October. Covered are a wide array of athletes from 2 first time marathoners (a single mom in her 30s and a late 20s PhD student single woman), a veteran male runner in his early 30s with the goal of qualifying for Boston (sound familiar?!?!?), a 70 year old male veteran marathoner, Deena Kastor (the USA's top female marathoner right now), and a Kenyan attempting to win his first marathon...after finishing 2nd and 3rd previously.

The movie moves across all of the athletes as the marathon approaches. If I had not done a marathon before and was watching this movie....perhaps in an attempt to be inspired....I'd agree it did the job. The "meat" of the movie and most powerful parts were watching those who were tackling the distance for the first time and how they grew and adapted to it. Plus, that 70 year old man has got to inspire just about anyone...novice or veteran. His spirit and approach to our sport is spot on. Deena Kastor's coverage was also well done and did what I'm thinking the film producers were trying to do...to paint her in a light of a mere mortal just like anyone else. She battles physical ailments, mental challenges, and must work hard just like anyone else. Granted, she's been blessed with an abundance of fast-twitch muscle fibers and endurance, but outside of that, she's just like us! It was awesome watching her race to the finish at Chicago. The coverage of the Kenyan, in my opinion, could have been omitted. Granted, he's phenomenal and a great athlete but I just don't think his story line flowed nor inspired like the rest of the movie did. However, it was very interesting to hear about his background and culture in Kenya and how running has transformed that country.

Lastly, I appreciated the many "experts" inserted throughout the movie offering their viewpoints and explanations. I have read many of their articles in Runner's World over the years or even met a few on more than one occasion (ie: Bill Rodgers, Kathrine Switzer). That was cool to put a face to all of the words I've read over the years.

Yea, it's a short review but most is best left for viewing. All in all, I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars and a must-have for any marathoner. It won't compete with classics like Prefontaine or Without Limits due to its documentary format but it was extremely well done and comes at a perfect time as we all trudge through the winter base-mileage building phase and prepare for our spring marathons.

What I took away from it: as my training has been constant since last summer (40-50 miles/week for months on end) and seems a bit too routine, it "grounded" me about the power of the marathon and no matter how much one may train, the unknown awaits on race day as just about anything can happen....from super good to worse than imaginable. It's the courage, desire, and strength to train and toe the line that unites us all, regardless of ability. All-in-all...set a goal, do the training, give it your all, and respect the distance. No matter if you've done 1 or 100, it's still 26+ miles and never really gets "easier." 7 marathons last year makes this year's goal of a PR and a qualifying Boston time no easier but does give me the confidence and knowledge of the distance to help me better train for and hopefully, achieve my goal. Like I said before....goals must be set if you plan on accomplishing any!

3" of fresh powder on the ground today....time for a trail run!

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