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Movies of the Month: 2005

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June 2005:

Order at Run Like A Girl Film.com

Run Like A Girl
A film about three generations of women distance runners

This documentary can perhaps be described best as a labor of love. This production was produced, directed, and edited by Charlotte Lettis Richardson over a five year period as she completed her Certificate in Film Production from the Northwest Film Institute. The package is complete with original music and never before seen footage from over 40 years of women stepping forward on the running scene. Released in 2005, the DVD is under the authority of "Fast Girl Productions" and can be obtained through their official motion picture web site, Run Like A Girl Film.com, where you can also view a fascinating timeline to the history of women’s running.

The main theme examines how running has developed and changed for women over the past 40+ years and it illustrates the movement by featuring three athletes from three different eras. Although their stories are interwoven on screen (with artistic use of archived footage, still images, and superimposed layers of information) here is a brief look at each individual runner:
  • Doris Brown Heritage: Beginning her running in the late 1950’s was an unusual thing for that time period as women were restricted by the discrimination present in the rules of the day. Girls were not even allowed to use the track facilities much less the need to overcome the obstacles of uniforms, transportation, and just having meets that allowed women to compete were often difficult to find. Although training techniques were not well know, Doris set records on the track, qualified and competed in Olympic competitions, and won several World Cross Country titles over the course of her athletic career. She reflects back years later to the meaning of her athletic accomplishments: "I’m not a valuable person because I ran fast, because I had a world record, but it helped me to have faith in myself so that I could go into other areas of life and put myself out on a scary edge."
  • Charlotte Lettis Richardson: When Charlotte started competing in the early 1970’s, there was "Resistance at every turn. In races we are often laughed at by spectators on the sidelines. Often there is no recognition at the end of the race that we had even finished." In 1972 there was "great hope" when Title IX was passed by congress, yet the affects of this legislation would not be seen until 1975. From a grass roots movement grew a changing structure that acknowledged and promoted women’s only events and opportunities that had never been realized before. Charlotte acknowledges that "In some ways I think sports teaches people how to do hard things. Probably the losing was the place where I learned the most about myself. In the end the running was merely just a mirror to the rest of my life. A way of simplifying and finding out what was already there."
  • Camille Connelly: Growing up in the 80’s, Camille saw women training and competing in a variety of venues. She even participated in local road races as a child with her family. Athletics and running were a way to have fun, form relationships with others, and be a part of a group. Now as a high school senior, she wants to train hard, compete to the fullest, and progress into the collegiate system on an athletic scholarship. She points out: "I want to take every opportunity and make the best of it. When I cross the finish line I want to be on the point of collapse. As a women, I believe that women should be in sports. I believe that I belong here."
I would expect this film to be routinely shown in high school and college level classroom settings in courses such as Women’s Studies and Contemporary Issues in Sports. With a running time of 40 minutes, it is a good length for a classroom introduction and discussion to follow. Yet my hope is that this documentary will be introduced far beyond institutional settings and will be widely seen by all people, men and women, athletic or not. People benefit in numerous ways, both internal and external, from various aspects of running, and taking the time to see this film will allow further growth in our individual journeys. As Charlotte states: "Most important, I learned that there is always another race or another chance to get things right. If you don’t get it right the first time you can always try again."

Postscript: Doris Brown Heritage was inducted into the Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1990, and the Distance Running Hall of Fame in 2002. Carlotte Richardson continues in her coaching, filmmaking (read interview), and her responsibilities as a mother. Camille Connelly continues to compete in both cross country and track events at the University of Washington in Seattle.


May 2005:

Order at ZombieRunner.com

Running Madness

This is dramatic coverage of the 29th running of the Western States 100 ultra marathon. From pre-race introductions, race start, running action, aid stations, and concluding at the finish line you will have the chance to make your own determination if these athletes are obsessed in their quest or just plain "mad". You will be drawn along as runners are featured as the day and miles pass along the course. There are no flashbacks or distortions of time as sections of the course are introduced with topographical and elevation maps along the way with course comments from Tim Tweitmeyer who has completed this course 20 times in less than 24 hours. 425 people start in Squaw Valley and are confronted with the 18,000 feet of vertical climbing and 23,000 feet of decent experienced in this wilderness passage.

Nearly 100 people are listed in the films credits and almost half are introduced on-screen as they explore various running related topics. With runners, medical volunteers, aid station workers, massage therapists, pacers, family members, and race organizers, the extent of the conversations are wide in scope and quite interesting. If you have ever considered ultra trail running there are sure to be some tips that you can pick up along the way to make your own journey more successful.

The athletes who are featured with personalized attention are varied and are presented in the following order throughout this production:
  • Catra Corbett-McNeeley: She has turned her life away from drugs with the help of her exercise program. With less than two years of running experience this is her second Western States 100."You’re out here in the middle of nowhere and it’s just such a spiritual experience."
  • Gordy Ainsleigh: He was the founding runner and first to complete the event in under 24 hours. With a wealth of experience his advice and energy are invaluable contributions to this production. "It’s easy to run at a pace that feels good and actually that’s setting a person up for disaster farther down the trail."
  • Simon Mtuy: From Tanzania, he works as a guide on Mount Kilimanjaro and is raising funds to rebuild a school in his village of Marangu Mbahe.
  • Emma Davies: Being an ultrarunner for nearly a decade, she uses her four children as race support during this, here fourth running of this course.
  • Scott Jurek: As a physical therapist from Seattle, he reveals his lifestyle that has resulted in three first place finishes in as many years. "There’s a lot that can happen in 100 miles. Things are gonna go wrong and there are going to be challenges that your going to face that you never anticipated and how you deal with them is the most important thing." As he seeks his fourth consecutive win will a course record be in his sights this year?
  • Bob Pearson: He has to control his diabetes by checking his blood sugar and providing insulin to keep his body capable of running. Will he maintain well enough to reach the finish line?
  • Clark Zealand: Being a runner since the fourth grade, will this post-collegiate runner be able to meet his goal of being a competitive entrant in his first 100 mile race?
19 runners are individually mentioned as they cross the finish line. This production is very well structured and presented and is complimented with nearly two dozen songs from three musical artist. Produced and directed by Susan Cohn Schultz, the founder of Jalapeno Productions, it has been featured at numerous film festivals including Ojai Film Festival, Woods Hole, Rome International, Hard Acre, and Everett Women’s Film Festival. You can check out a three minute trailer that is offered in quicktime or windows media format and to place an order form this DVD visit ZombieRunner.com. The DVD will come in a plain case without cover art, although the excellent contents gives you plenty of images to remember for a long time.

See other Ultra Running films.


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April 2005:

Order at Angry Filmmaker.com

Kicking Bird
Run. Because it’s the only thing left to do.

The story, remember the story. But first, the numbers...
  •    0. The amount paid to the actors, but you wouldn’t know it.
  •    2. The number of different public schools and track facilities.
  •    3. This is Kelley Baker’s third feature film in the last six years.
  •   18. This is how many days it took to shoot all the footage "guerilla style".
  •   23. Number of cuts on the soundtrack from four different artists.
  •   49. This is how many people gave $100 each to finance this film.
  •   70. Thirty credited cast members and forty more extras to fill out the scenes.
  • 100. The running time of this truly independent feature film.
Run.
To seek the truth.
To escape the beating.

Now for the story. This original screenplay is based on really believable characters as they confront a series of emotional challenges. The raw emotion, mixed with the hope through running, is well paced, and has an original soundtrack that rocks this story as often as the characters can be seen running. Although set at a high school level, this is not a feel-good-make-lots-of-money-for-the-fancy-studio kind of film. This movie is not just simply "entertainment" either. It is about life’s struggles exposed and you will be thinking, reflecting, hoping, and plotting as the story of Martin Johnson (Ian Anderson-Priddy) is revealed. It is not too often that feature films use running as a method of story line (run from problems, run to avoid pain, run for hope of the future, run to find yourself, run to save your life!), and that is what stands this movie apart.

Run.
For the purity of it.

Oh yeah, the running. The first image is the word "Run" on the screen and the first scene is of Martin "Bird" Johnson running out of the school and down the street. He continues to run from the cross country team that want to beat him up and after he is in a fight he joins the team to get out of detention. The coach has a speech about how running could be his "out" from being a "loser" and how he can make it into college with his talent. Yet first he must train, and compete in some races to really show his true potential. Although Martin discovers where he stands, the motives of those around him are much more questionable.

Run.
Because its the only thing left to do.

If you are a running purist and want to sit back and nit-pick the clothing, shoes, surfaces, training methods, and race logistics then skip this title and move onto the documentary films instead. If you want a fictional, thought provoking tale with twists and revelations along the way, then take notice of Kicking Bird. In the end I was glad it was over, yet I wanted more. Although not rated, it would get an "R" listing for language, violence, and adult situations. The screen may not be filled with the richness and depth of a multi-million dollar blockbuster that you are used to seeing, but that is the price for a great story on a shoestring budget. You may order this DVD in widescreen format directly from the filmmaker, Kelley Baker (read an interview). Visit his website at AngryFilmmaker.com to request this movie and watch for it to appear at film festivals in 2005. Be sure to see it on the big screen, if it comes to a town near you, because this is one story that will stay with you long after you have left the darkened theater.


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March 2005:

Order at Amazon.com

ChiRunning
A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running.

Danny Dreyer, long time ultramarathoner, took the concepts that he has been using and teaching for years and created a 56 minute instructional film that was released in April 2004. If you are looking for a clear and well thought out presentation on running form, this DVD may be the answer for you. Whether you are seeking efficiency in your stride or injury prevention for the long haul of your running career, this may contain the solutions that you have been seeking. Combine this video with his book (with additional information on race preparation, diet, injury prevention, and lifestyle), or one of the many workshops that Dreyer hosts, and you are bound to get on board with a new angle to the age old exercise of running.

Although you can get a VHS tape, I would highly recommend the DVD as the menu allows easy navigation between the lessons, the four drills & exercises, eight body looseners, and additional features that are included. One of the strengths of this show are split screen views showing incorrect and correct application of the concepts. Each topic is broken down into several steps that are clearly explained and demonstrated with soothing music and clear graphics. Nearly two dozen athletes are used to illustrate the methods that will move your focus onto the core muscles while relaxing the rest of the body to run more effortlessly and efficiently. There are five lessons during the first 20 minutes that get you up and running. Here are a few of the highlights presented during the opening explanations with the quotes from Danny:
  • Posture: "Posture is the cornerstone of the ChiRunning technique and crucial to building strong core muscles. We begin with posture because it is the single most important factor in developing good running form" Five steps are then used to demonstrate how to obtain the correct posture that is used in ChiRunning.
  • Lean: "Leaning takes an immense amount of the workload off your legs and creates highly efficient running. The less you use your legs to push yourself forward the more efficient of a runner you will be. The lean is your gas pedal. If you want to run faster you lean more. If you want to run slower you lean less." Three drills are used to reinforce this important aspect of the program.
  • Heal Lift: "In ChiRunning you will not be pushing yourself forward with each stride, in fact, you will be simply picking up your feet to keep up with your forward fall." Two steps are used to develop and demonstrate this concept.
  • Arm Swing: "Few people know how to really make their arms work for them in a beneficial way. Follow these simple steps and you will be ‘swinging’ with the best of them." Outlined are the four steps needed to master this upper body technique.
  • Starting to run: "As you start your run it is best to begin by being mindful of what you are about to do. You have been given all the pieces to the ChiRunning technique and now here is where we get to put it all together." Five main points are covered as the real adventure of running begins.
The above is just a sample of the steps that are well broken down and reviewed at the end of each segment of this production. See it for yourself to discover additional drills and exercises, discussion of cadence and stride length with clear examples demonstrated, and testimonials from people who are practicing ChiRunning with success. Visit RunningTimes.com if you want to read an article written in 2001 by Danny that is entitled Physical Running: Applying Physics to Your Running Form. To see the most current information on this technique go to the official web site, ChiRunning.com, where you can place your order, read articles, and view a host of other information to start making running more enjoyable, efficient, and effective for your mind and body.


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February 2005:

Order at FiveThousandMeters.com

Five Thousand Meters:
Nothing Comes Easy

If you have ever wanted to know more about the American distance runners, who are striving to compete with the world, than this is your golden opportunity to glance "behind the scenes" and meet these athletes. A small group of filmmakers from Colorado College, led by producer Carl Leivers and director Brennan Galloway, formed Negative Split Pictures and have stepped forward in assembling this 100-minute film about the 5,000 meter track event. The crew filmed in California, Colorado, Michigan and Oregon throughout the summer of 2004, culminating with the United States Olympic Trials in Sacramento to select the Olympic squad. For a low budget first film, produced in a rapid-fire time frame, this production is an amazing accomplishment.

This film introduces the nine primary athletes and them follows them through their training and racing to obtain one of the 24 slots in the trials by running the Trials B standard time of 13:48. From the Mt. Sac Relays in Walnut California 13 weeks prior to the trials you will journey week by week through competitions at the Adidas Track Classic, inner squad time trials, Prefontaine Classic, and discussions of races in Europe, as they try to peak at just the right time in quest of the elusive Olympic "A Standard" of 13:21.50. As narrator Tom Roper states "The standard is non-flexible or open to negotiation."

Mixed with interviews, both before and after competition, you get a true documentary feel of being there and coping with the outcomes. On several occasions these athletes went into the race with high expectations of their fitness, however, when the times did not meet their goals the disappointment was apparent. As Goucher expressed "I got anaerobic too soon, too quick. I laid it on the line too soon and I paid the price." Many athletes struggle, yet the hopes remain high as training continues as each focuses on their goals.

Quotes, as presented by each featured runner:
  • Bolota Asmerom: "I’ve got some work to do, but I’ll take it. This was a great start for me."
  • Ryan Bak: "It was a PR, not by much, but it was easier then other 1500s."
  • Tim Broe: "I’m glad it all came together."
  • Adam Goucher: "I’m going to go over there and run my ass off and see what happens."
  • Matt Lane: "It was the second fastest 5k in my career so I have to take that as a positive."
  • Mark Menefee: "I'm happy to be a sub 13:40 guy now."
  • Jonathon Riley: "I was just happy to get that kind of performance in and it’s just really exciting for me."
  • Dathan Ritzenhein: "I think I’m really fit and ready for a fast five."
  • Jorge Torres: "Anytime it’s a personal record it’s a good time."
The climax of this film is at the Olympic Trials where most of the athletes advance to the finals four days after the qualifying round is shown. What a thrill to set back and watch the final develop, lap by lap, with the stadium announcer clearly calling the lap splits, kilometer splits, and changing positions at the front of the pack. The crowd does all they can to help the athletes and your adrenaline will be flowing as you watch them compete. Unfortunately, after the race the rules of the team selection were not very clear and it is comical to hear many of the athletes describe possible scenarios for the Olympic Team using such words as "confusing", "screwy", and "retarded".

To read more about this production visit the official film web site at Five Thousand Meters.com. You can view a short trailer, read additional athlete information, see more photos, listen to some of the music, and scan the latest news releases. You may also place your Order at this site for a DVD version of this revealing production as well as see what running stores may be carrying it in your area. On the disc you will find two trailers, an outtake section, and "The Tim and Ron Show" where Tim Broe and his coach Ron Warhurst engage in some enjoyable banter. Now stop reading this and go place your order for this film as you will want to watch this one again and again.


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January 2005:

Order at WorldLanguage.com

Marathon: A History of the Great Race
AKA: The Story of the Marathon: A Hero’s Journey

This 52 minute presentation is packed full of marathon history, starting with the myth of the original running from the ancient Greek battle that inspired the race to the modern day Olympic competitions. The first ten minutes covers several topics from the story of Pheidippides, traditions of the Boston Marathon, Olympic contests (1952 and 1960), and the toll the human body endures to complete the demanding distance. The next eleven minutes pursues the original stories of the Greek messengers and how the historian Herodotus preserved the stories in writing. There is still debate on what legends tell us and what likely occurred. At 23 minutes the modern day Olympiad is presented with six featured races (1896, 1900, 1904, 1908, 1948, and 1968). The following six minutes outlines women’s role in this race, from individuals such as Kathrine Switzer to events like the Avon marathon, International and European Championships, and the inaugural running in Los Angeles in the 1984 Olympic games. Just a few minutes are used to report the "running boom" in the United States during the 1970’s with a focus on the New York City Marathon. The last ten minutes is a collection of aspects to the race from wheelchair competitors, the Spartathon ultra event, and commentary from race directors, doctors, and historians.

Here is a alphabetized listing of the runners shown in this production, a literal "who’s who" of marathon accomplishment. Male Athletes: Abebe Bikila, Felix Carvajal, Ron Dixon, Etienne Gailly, Tom Hicks, Ibrahim Hussein, John Kelly, Yiannis Kouros, Spiridon Louis, Alain Mimoun, Jim Peters, Peter Pfitzinger, Dorando Pietri, Alberto Salazar, Frank Shorter, John Stephen, Michel Theato, John Treacy, Mamo Wolde, Emil Zátopek. Female Athletes: Gabrielle Andersen, Joan Benoit, Ingrid Kristiansen, Rosa Mota, Wanda Panfil, Joyce Smith, Kathrine Switzer, Grete Waitz.

Quotes:
  • "The marathon. It’s the ultimate athletic event which embodies every challenge. It’s a race against other runners, against time, against oneself. It’s a race that pushes people past their limits. It’s a symbol of human achievement. Every runner who runs this race is a hero." ~Narrator Stig Eldred
  • "It’s painful to train. It’s even more painful to run the marathon and get to the 20 miles or eighteen miles and something happens to you and you fight through it. You get through it. You drink more water, you slow down, you cry, you fight. And you finish. It is a great great feeling of finishing." ~Fred Lebow, Race Director, New York City Marathon
  • "The marathon, when you run one, gives you a sense of significance that no other event does. I think that there is three reasons, one because of the intrinsic difficulty of distance. Two, because you are doing it in a special place- it’ from someplace to somewhere, or you go right round and there is a sense of conquering of a particular place. And then three and most important is the sense of history. When you run a marathon you are running in the footsteps of Abebe Bikila, Joan Benoit, and Donald Pietri, and Phidipedies. And certainly marathon runners love to feel that they in some way added their own tiny bit to the myth." ~Roger Robinson, Professor and Historian
  • "A marathon race is something begun and finished. It’s a completion. It’s a mental completion and a physical completion. It’s something that stays ingrained in your soul and memory and even in your body forever, and that’s the beauty of it. You can look back at it and It’s a day, a part of your life that has a certain eternity to it." ~Dr. Norbert Sander, Sports Specialist
What makes this tape noteworthy is the sense that all who run the marathon contribute in some unique way to the history of the event. This film really put together research, archival footage, and narration to make it one that you would not want to miss if you have the opportunity to see it. Top Shelf Productions provided the 1996 videocassette release of this 1992 production, however when searching for a current source to obtain this film all the sites linked back to Amazon.com in England (PAL format). The biggest problem with this source is they currently do not have any copies to sell. Please let me know through the contact form if a reliable seller begins offering this piece of marathon history.


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