Mark’s Top Ten Favorite Running Movies:
First, let me explain...that this list is if I had to reduce my extensive collection down to just a few titles. I think of these films as the ones I would toss in a backpack and have ready to go at a moments notice in a time of emergency. As you read, you will understand that each of these titles serve a very specific purpose within the history of my running. I am really thankful to everyone who has visited my site, suggested film titles, and especially to all the creative producers, directors, and distributors who have made these films to share. Thanks everybody, and I imagine that you will see a few surprises below.
Now, the List:
#1. Bud Greenspan’s Olympiad Series (1996)This 8-tape, 16 film set from 1996 had a lot to do with starting RunningMovies.com. Having obtained this production on eBay for less than $20, I found great pleasure in the stories and volume of footage (about 12 hours) contained within this series. My interest in finding more films that contained running was now well established and starting to obtain more films was just a logical progression for me. Many people comment that the narration is overdone, a bit too dramatic, yet I don’t mind a story being told in this way as long as the footage and historical significance really do add up. My only wish is that Greenspan would have included one of the hurdle events as one of the segments. If you are starting your own collection, I suggest you start here and maybe you will catch the bug that helped prompt everything you see on this site.
#2. Go Wild! Fitness: All-Terrain Workout (2001)My guess is that you would not have expected this, or any other, follow-along type workout tape to be on the list. In the hope of always maintaining fitness there is a need to have at least one tape on the list that can get the job done, day in and day out, for the long haul. Jen is great in the video. I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of indoor workouts and there are few days here in the Pacific Northwest that don’t allow me to get outside. That said, this is a whole body experience filmed outside in national parks and the pace, tempo, variety, and scope of the workout is outstanding. I have loaned this tape to others, they always want to keep it, and each time they buy their own copy as I need this tape in my collection. I wished that Jen could have continued to develop more tapes to create a series, and since there is no plans that I’m aware of to make this happen, the only thing left to hope for is a well indexed DVD in the future.
#1 Running Film, both through their interest as well as showing popularity by ordering this film. Prefontaine had a profound impact on the development of NIKE and continues to this day to shape and inspire the young runners of today. With the DVD release, in addition to the original VHS production from 1995, all I can think of to add would be bonus material with updated reflections on the life of Steve Prefontaine.
#4. Tokyo Olympiad (1965)Director Kon Ichikawa, no doubt influenced by Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia from 1936, put together a magnificent widescreen film in documenting the 1964 Tokyo Olympiad. The Criterion Collection DVD comes with a book and has a host of options from commentary, language, and new and improved translated subtitles. At 170 minutes, and indexed 40 times for easy access to any event, I get plenty of track action and a host of other superbly filmed Olympic competition to keep my interest. The artistic use of slow motion, closeups, and multiple camera angles makes this presentation one that should be studied for anyone wanting to know how to tell a story with the use of film.
#5. Lady Warriors (2001)I have to admit that there is an emotional pull that puts this film into my top ten list. When thinking back to high school as "the good ’ol days" it is the cross country team experience that hooked me as a runner. Sure, I was more "successful" on the track, yet it was the team unity and experiences as a tight group that helped me develop my self concepts and mental skills that I carry to this day. In this film those types of messages are loud and clear. With the excellent coach, traditions, and athletes who go through the range of adolescent emotions, I get carried back many years to where my concept of being a runner was developed. The only problem with this production is the lack of ability for the general public to view this movie. It has been distributed for institutional use, with a price tag that matches, and what I would like to see is a DVD format made available with the price around the $20.00 range so that every kid who ran cross country can relive the magical moments that transformed them into the runners that they are today.
#6. Running On The Sun (1999)This film was released in the same year that I ran my first marathon. When seeing the training and what people experience in the Badwater 135 I often think "if they can do that, then why what do I have to complain about." This applies for almost any aspect expericenced when out running be it the distance, weather conditions, mental and physical demands, or even supporting of a fellow athlete. I started to run further to discover what I could learn about myself. The long distance trip ended up taking me up to 50 miles in one race, more than my sprinter’s body knew it could handle. I have learned lessons that stay with me even though I have changed back to the shorter distances. Lessons that are reflected in this DVD that I will be sure to watch yet again if I ever plan on putting another marathon on my race schedule.
#7. High Hurdles (1991)When it comes to the track, I’m truly a hurdler at heart. I’m not the fastest guy around, yet I don’t mind throwing myself into these barriers to maintain whatever sprint speed I can gather. The highs and intermediate hurdles were MY event in both high school and college. I never was elite, so after college it was time to try some long distance running for a change of pace. Since the 2005 track season I have been in the coaching role with a return to the hurdle events and now I am once again competing at the masters level in the 400 hurdles. I tell you this since I have come full circle with my running and so much time has been spent thinking about and preparing for the hurdle races, I just had to include my favorite hurdling title in this list. The only problem is this particular VHS tape is discontinued and is now very hard to find. The methods presented here by past world record holder Renaldo Nehemiah are sound and effective in teaching this wonderful event. Championship Productions.com, please, I beg you (for all the coaches and hurdlers out there), bring this one back in DVD format for future generations better learn the art of hurdling.
#8. Visions of Eight (1973)This film is like having eight works of art posted on the wall. Art is good for the soul and this production takes an amazing look at the 1972 Olympic Games through these eight artistic directors. Like art, each segment is captivating and enjoyable for it’s own unique reason. Perhaps it is the shading, dramatic presentation, simplicity, or attention to detail. It is interesting that the music from this piece is more well known than the visual images, showing that the production and distribution of this documentary has not returned to the general public. It is too bad that this film is not being released as a 25 year Anniversary Collection DVD set complete with bonus material that would allow the public to open up the doors to this gallery. As a movie, being rare and unavailable is not one of qualities that boosts this film’s appeal. If you ever get a chance to view this film, notice that Vincent Van Gogh is mentioned in the opening segment and then sit back, relax, and absorb the beauty on the screen.
#9. Endurance (1999)The first three minutes of this film is enough to put it on this list. The mid-range shot of Haile Gebrselassie running effortlessly across the rough terrain in the countryside of his homeland in Ethiopia is one image that I recall when thinking of running form and function. Yes, the body is like a well tuned machine that transports the one passenger wherever directed. When I see these type of shots with the camera (present also in Showdown, Indulgence, and even with high school runners in Border Clash V) I sense what it means to be a runner, the encompassing rhythmic movement, acceleration, and maintenance. Nothing is more enchanting and captivating when done well and few people have ever spanned such a long period with so many records (24, and counting). My request here is similar to five other titles listed above, Disney Home Video needs to release this on DVD, and please offer a full range of features suitable for such a fine film.
#10. Racing Against the Clock (2004)In rounding out this list it’s hard to walk away from the shelf leaving so many films behind. This title is the last in my pack because these athletes are simply amazing. I hope that when I’m in my 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or beyond, that I am still in a position to compete and push the envelope of my own personal athletic performance. These record setters leave the comforts of their familiar environments and travel around the world to compete in Master’s Championship competition. As a lifelong runner I can only hope and dream that I will still be connected to this great sport decades into the future. It’s hard to know what’s in store, yet with ongoing goal setting, and awareness of health issues, I can only hope to be in a position to prepare, dream, and compete to the best of my ability. This film shows that it’s both possible and worthwhile. I think the next list I’ll start working on is counting my blessings.
There are several other titles that have a need to be added to my list. And like the films above, they contain a unique role in my development as a runner. Perhaps I need to expand this list into a "baker’s dozen" in order to include some other very special titles: Run Like A Girl, A Race for the Soul, and Bill Dellinger’s Fundamentals: Hurdles with John Gillespie. Is it time to get a bigger backpack?
See Mark’s Running Biography.
Last Updated February, 2008