I just finished watching the movie Spirit of the Marathon, and it was so good I wanted to post about it right away. The film follows six people from totally different running backgrounds as they train for the 2005 Chicago Marathon. For a couple of them, it was their first marathon. Some others had been running for a while, and two of them were elite runners, including American record holder Deena Kastor.
It started off by introducing the runners and getting to know them a little. Interspersed throughout was a really interesting history of the Marathon, and competitive running in general. There were interviews and soundbites from a lot of famous people from the running community, like Paula Radcliff, Amby Burfoot, John “the Penguin” Bingham, and many others who’s names you would probably only recognize if you subscribe to Runner’s World magazine.
The movie followed the runners through 4 months of training in preparation for the race. It showed people doing their weekend long runs, some in groups and some by themselves. It showed Deena Kastor on a stretching table talking about how she thought she would be more sore than she was after running 145 miles that week. And yes, that is an average of over 20 miles per day. (!!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!!)
Then it was on to race day. They showed everyone lining up at the start of the Chicago Marathon. I kept an eye out for myself because I was running that year, but I did not spot myself out of the 35,000+ runners. I thought the coolest part about the race footage was getting to see a lot of the elite runners. Try and wrap your head around this for a minute. The first place male that year finished in around 2:07. That is a pace of 4:50 per mile. For 26.2 miles. Now picture a standard track at a high school. That would be one lap around that track in 1:12, something that I surely could never pull off. Thus, I can’t even dream of holding a pace for 1/4 mile that these guys hold for an entire marathon. It’s pretty incredible. Topped off by the fact that they make it look smooth and effortless.
The end sequence of the women’s race was a nail biter, and in case you want to be in suspense, I won’t tell you what happens. We got to see all of the other runners finish, and all of their emotions come pouring out. It is interesting how some people throw their arms up in celebration, while others are completely overwhelmed and just start to cry. I dare you to watch the finish line sequence and not tear up a little. It made me think back to finishing my first marathon and how awesome it felt. It was sheer exhaustion mixed with joy and relief. I threw my arms in the air, but I’m pretty sure I did that just so I could have an awesome finish line photo.
The movie really made me think about why people run marathons, and why I run marathons. I do it because I love to push myself, and push through my own limits. I love the feeling that comes with finishing something that most people cannot or would not do, and knowing it was only through my hard work that I got there. I love the community of people that are all there for their own reasons. Also, I love to eat, which is why I will probably always participate in endurance sports of some kind or another.
The cool thing is, though we all may have different reasons for running, on race day everyone is in it together. The thousands of people around you share in the hard work and dedication it took to get there. I don’t know these people, but we are a part of the same community. Running is in you, but it is bigger than you. And that’s why I do it.
If you have run a marathon before, especially Chicago, you will love this movie. If you are not a runner it will surely inspire you. If you have ever thought about running a marathon but doubted that you have what it takes, it will prove you wrong. And if you hate running and just don’t get why we do it, this movie will make you understand.