McFarland, USA – The Running Movie You Have Never Heard Of, But Hopefully Will

Earlier this month, as marathon runner’s across the country tuned into the coverage of the 2014 New York City marathon, they were treated to a surprise. As the screen cut away from the runners signaling one of the broadcasts commercial breaks, the familiar green “The Following Preview Has Been APPROVED For APPROPRIATE AUDIENCES” label filled the screen. Instead of cutting away to a shot of Bilbo Baggins fighting the final battle in the seemingly never ending Hobbit series, the screen filled with images of farmers working in their fields accompanied by a voice over that said “welcome to McFarland. This is a farming town. These kids working here are invisible. They come from the fields and they go back to the fields.” Cut to an image of Kevin Costner, “Mr. White, if you are going to reach them, now is the time.” The screen then faded to black and the Disney logo that we all know so well filled the screen. As the screen fills again Kevin Costner says “My name is Mr. White. I’m your new PE teacher.” Kevin Costner, Disney, AND an inspirational sports movie? This can’t get any better! Then it did. How? Not only is this going to be an inspirational Disney sports movie staring Kevin Costner, it is going to be about a down and out group of kids and how running cross country changed their lives, their coaches life, and how their hard work and dedication to the sport lifted their entire community’s spirits.

Disney just earned my ten dollars.

After the trailer for Mcfarland, USA ended. I immediately starting researching more about Mcfarland and their cross-country team. The first article I found written about Mcfarland team was in the LA Times. The article was written as the team was in pursuit of their sixth straight California state cross-country title in 1997. The article revealed a little more about the team that had piqued my interest during the three minute trailer. The sentences in bold italic text below stood out to me the most.

With runners drawn from farm worker families too poor to buy racing shoes, the McFarland High cross-country team has won five state titles in a row, a feat unmatched in any sport by any high school in California. They’ve beaten the rich kids from Carmel Valley and the surfer kids from Laguna Beach. They’ve beaten prep schools, suburban schools, Indian reservation schools and the big boys from L.A.

Further research revealed that the movie was based on an essay that appeared in the March 2004 issue of Sports Illustrated titled “Running For Their Lives.”

Running For Their Lives

The article was written after the team had won nine consecutive California state cross-country championships and their coach Mr. White’s retirement was looming. What would they do without him? Mr. White had been more than a coach to his teams and his community, could the tradition of success on and off of the cross country courses continue?

Mcfarland runners with Costner

– Above is a picture of Costner with some of the original Mcfarland cross-country runners and their coach Mr. White.

I can’t wait until this movie is released on February 20th of next year. The story of the Mcfarland cross-country team has taken 10 years to make it to the big screen; and it has been nearly 17 years since a major Hollywood studio released a movie about distance running. 1998’s Without Limits (my favorite running movie) was the last movie about running that was released by a major movie studio (Warner Brothers), and it was only released because it was produced by Tom Cruise due to his admiration of the late American distance runner Steve Prefontaine.

Maybe, if enough of the running community shows up to make this movie a box office success, Hollywood will make more movies about, what we all know, is the most inspirational sport there is. 🙂 I propose that all of the readers of this blog organize a dinner and a movie night with their local running groups to help Mcfarland, USA become a box office hit. Here’s to hoping that Mcfarland, USA joins the ranks of the great movies about distance running.

McFarland USA - One Sheet

Official Trailer #2 is Below!

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