If there is one thing that has been as big a part of my life as running, it is the movies. In fact, one of my earliest memories is waiting in line to see E.T. in the summer of 1982. I don’t remember more than waiting in the line and the fact that I had Hot Tamales as my candy; however, my mother kept a journal for me when I was a child and she detailed my reaction to my first movie in that journal. That night, when my mom was helping me say my bedtime prayers, I apparently prayed for E.T. not once, but twice and made sure to ask God that E.T. was able to make it home safely. Apparently, Steven Spielberg’s little movie about an accidentally left behind alien that is befriended by a young boy had quite the effect on me. I have been hooked on the movies ever since.
In honor of this week being Oscar week, I am submitting my top 5 list of, what I feel, are the best running movies of all time. I welcome any comments regarding films that you feel I have overlooked.
5.) Chariots of Fire (1981) – Won Best Picture
The story of two sprinters training for and competing in the 1924 Olympics. The two sprinters were considered the front runners for the 100 meter race, however, when one of the qualifying races is scheduled on a Sunday, one of the young men (a devout Christian) refuses to race on Sunday. The Olympic committee tries to pressure the young man into competing but his position on the matter cannot not be changed. Another Olympic runner is so impressed by the young man’s courage that he offers him his slot in the 400 meter race that will not be held on Sunday. Both runners go on to win the gold medal in their respective races.
4.) Spirit of the Marathon (2007)
The story of three amateur runners and two elite runners as they prepare for the Chicago Marathon. The documentary took four years to complete and is widely considered one of the only films that has ever captured what it feels like to prepare and ultimately run 26.2 miles.
3.) Running Brave (1983)
The story of Billy Mills, an American Indian, that came out of nowhere to win the gold medal in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Mills defeated world record holder Ron Clarke in the race. His winning time of 28:24 was a personal record by more than 50 seconds and a new Olympic record. He was the first American to win the gold medal in 10,000 meters and no American has won gold in the 10,000 meters since.
2.) Without Limits (1998)
The life story of distance running legend Steve Prefontaine. Enough said. I’m pretty sure nearly every runner I know is familiar with Steve Prefontaine and his story. If you are not familiar, go find yourself a copy of this movie as soon as you are done reading this post.
1.) Fire On The Track: The Steve Prefontaine Story (1995)
I find this documentary about Steve Prefontaine superior to Without Limits largely due to the interviews with Steve’s contemporaries and the live footage of many of Pre’s races, including his 1972 Olympic race. I’ve lost count of how many times I have watched this film. I watch it the night before many of my races. I find it impossible not to be inspired by Pre’s story.