Race Off: Running Movies go Head to Head – Part Dos

Posted: 2nd September 2013 by mockjogger in Inspiration, Lists
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I am hunting for movies that capture the spirit of distance running and provide a source of motivation when the going gets tough. They are hard to find.

This is the second of three posts in which I offer my personal opinions of eleven movies with a running theme. The first post covered The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Run Fatboy Run, Without Limits and Chariots of Fire. This post covers Marathon Man, The Jericho Mile, Across the Tracks and Running. Part Tres will cover Spirit of the Marathon, Prefontaine, and Marathon (Korea) (a late substitute for On the Edge, because I can’t find it anywhere), and conclude with a top 5 ranking.

I’ve tried not to give too much of the plot away in each case and concentrate on what is interesting from a runner’s motivation perspective, but there may be some spoilers.

Marathon Man

marathon manForget any pre-conceptions the title may generate, there is nothing of a Marathon in this movie. It is a spy movie, and a good one at that, but not a running movie. At the centre of things is a ’76 Dustin Hoffman playing an innocent bystander drawn into a web of deceit and double-cross. Hoffman’s character has a fondness, bordering on obsession, for distance running (although he has never run a marathon), a fact that has little bearing on the plot, apart from allowing him to run away in one scene. Hoffman is on top form and the running scenes are well filmed. It is easy to get behind his character and his struggle to survive. However, the fact that he runs has little to do with it, and as a consequence, the movie provides little running motivation.

Motivation score 3/10
Running action score 6/10

The Jericho Mile

Jericho mileIf you want to waste 1.5 hours of your life, go ahead and watch this one. By the half way point I was looking for something else, anything else, to do. The plot centres on a prison inmate who runs around the yard in circles and gets his core training in in his cell. Turns out he runs fast, but who gives a toss? When an event changes his attitude from one of isolation to one of opportunity the film improves. Slightly. After some prison-inmate-argy-bargy, he gets his shot to race against some known fast dudes, but somewhat predictably, politics gets in the way of running. Plenty of soft focus running scenes with a bare-chested Peter Strauss ripping it (if you are into that sort of thing), but there are many better choices for motivation.

Motivation score 2/10
Running action score 3/10

Across The Tracks

across the tracksWhen Brad Pitt looks back on his career, he will move swiftly past Across The Tracks on to his next movie, Thelma and Louise. This is a dire sibling rivalry tale, with two brothers competing over 800m, and Pitt is outshone in the acting stakes by co-star Ricky Schroder. The story fails to engender any emotional involvement at all, is as predictable as a train on rails and cannot be mentioned in the same breath as certain other sibling sports rivalry movies (Warrior springs to mind). Even setting aside the fact that 800m is too short for distance running inspiration, this movie does nothing for motivation. Forget it.

Motivation score 1/10
Running action score 3/10


RunningThis movie is full of contradictions. Panned by the general public, with a 5.5 score on IMDB, the only characteristic that is normally signalled out for praise is the soundtrack, by little-known composer Andre Gagnon. Well, let me tell you, everyone is wrong. The movie is better than that and the soundtrack is pants. In one of his lesser known roles (the only way I could get hold of it was to watch 10 minute segments on YouTube of someone hand-filming a VHS playback), Douglas plays a likeable dude with a commitment problem, seeking to win back the respect of his family by winning the Olympic marathon at the 1976 Montreal games. The thing that stands out here is that Douglas genuinely looks the part of a distance runner, even if his posse don’t seem to be moving at sub-5 pace. With a half decent soundtrack this could have been a classic.

Motivation score 7/10
Running action score 7/10

Look out for the third and final installment, which will be posted when I have a chance to watch the final three movies.

  1. Kathy R says:

    I’ve only seen Marathon Man, which I watched while home sick one day.
    Yes, there was a man. But no marathon. I was very disappointed. But, yes, as far as spy flicks go it was decent. I giggled a bit about the recurrent references of how most people could never understand the pain of the marathon runner. Erm, OK. Different generation, look how far we’ve come!

  2. mockjogger says:

    Yeah, really good, inspirational distance running movies are proving to be harder to find than I expected. I can see Forrest Gump being genre-reclassified to help the list.