Friday, January 25, 2008

Spirit of the Marathon

Spirit of the Marathon

Being the endurance geek that I am, I jumped at the opportunity to see a film devoted towards marathon running last night. I went to see Spirit Of The Marathon at the Stratford Cinemas, a documentary that was being shown in selected theaters throughout the country for one night in January (last night) and another night in February.

Big Rocks and my sister Laura accompanied me to the theater, amusingly along with 100 or so familiar faces from the area running community. I commented to Marty Schiavone as we entered the stadium seating theater that this had to be the fittest viewing audience in movie history.

The movie followed six people preparing for the 2005 Chicago marathon. Two elites, Deena Kastor (the women’s American record holder in the marathon and Olympic bronze medalist), Daniel Njenga (a Kenyan residing in Tokyo who is a 2:06 marathoner), a husband and wife, a divorced woman training for her first, another young woman training for her first, and a 70+ year old guy who has run many and is doing this one with his daughter – her first. I have to admit that my expectations were low, and had flashbacks of the disappointing triathlon movie “What It Takes” that documented more about a whining Peter Reid than it did about what it takes. Having 12 hours now to reflect on the movie, it was decent, I’d give it 2.5 out of 4 stars.

I enjoyed the coverage they did of Deena. They showed her training, mostly with other young guys, and she always looks as though she’s hammering. They talked about her 140 mile training weeks, and showed her drive. They also showed her dealing with a small stress fracture in her foot. She mentioned how she was out on a training run and something just didn’t feel right and she just stopped right there. The doc told her that if she had ran a few more steps, more than likely she would have done quite a bit of damage. They showed her running on an underwater treadmill and doing quite a bit of strength training. She’s an extremely hard worker and her personality was likable.

The coverage of the average Joes who were training was ok. Basically, one woman was a solitary runner, the divorcee used the camaraderie of her training group to cope, the guy in the couple situation appeared to be a bit of a whiner, but he and his wife both met their goal the following year of running Boston. The old guy was humorous and displayed in a nonconventional way how running marathons has become part of him, even though he commented often in the film that he was done after this next one.

The Kenyan runner really caught my interest. There are so many talented Kenyan runners and they all appear to just be personalityless machines, however, that’s not the case. The problem is that we just don’t have many opportunities to learn about them. No one really follows marathoning because not only is it a participant sport, but there is also very little known about the Kenyans and Ethiopians that seem to win all the races. This guy they followed, they briefly showed his life in Tokyo and it appeared that he held down a real job besides running. I wished they showed us more of that. They also followed him back to Kenya where he’d return often to visit family and to train. Running is your out as a Kenyan. If you are a good runner, you can make some cash that in Kenya, where the average annual income must be sub $100, puts you in the upper echelon. They showed how rampant crime is there and how this poor guy Daniel’s brother was attacked by thieves at his home where they killed his wife and child and burned down his house, and he didn’t even receive money yet from Daniel! I instantly found myself routing for this guy when they eventually got to coverage of the race.

Finally, they portrayed the Chicago marathon in a light that makes me want to try this one, regardless of the fiasco that occurred there this past year. As I watched there race coverage and how they showed the families of these runners waiting for them at certain points on the course as spectators, I couldn’t help but think of how valuable My Athlete is going to be. Once again, while observing the race, there are two very common similiaraties amongst the fastest runners, both male and female. They were all very lean, and they all had a very quick leg turnover. The quick leg turnover is not to be confused with stride length. In fact, sometimes stride length is shortened initially to achieve a quick turnover. Watch a video of elite runners and you'll understand more why I prescribe those turnover/strike down drills of 90+/minute. It's a pretty easy formula. If you want to run fast, get skinny and turn over those legs 90 times per minute.

I arrived back home around 9:30pm to find Lisa sound asleep on the sofa. I took a comfy seat next to her and surfed the channels, looking for something entertaining and allowing me to decompress from the adrenalin that hits every endurance athlete when they view a film on endurance training and racing, no matter how good it may be. I surfed no further than Cinemax. The channel was only 15 minutes into Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a 4 out of 4 star film.




triguyjt said...

that played here few nights ago and i had to work and missed it...
thanks for the little "thumbs up" review.
seems like 2.5 out of 4 is like a 1.5 thumbs up out of 2..

Eric said...

You should catch it JT - they're reshowing it in February, I think on the 21st. Yeah, I'd give it 1 and 1/2 thumbs up.



Anonymous said...

I bet the theater didn't make much off of that butter-fatty popcorn that night or candy bars?

Next time they should screen it at a gym, so everyone can be on treadmills while watching it.

I am in the middle of a run focus, I could use the running motivation.

FWIW I liked that Reid was whinning in WIT. Mostly because it shows that training that much has a dark twisted side, and I love dark twisted things, I thought the movie lacked proper editing, and cinimatography, more than just content.

I watched "Run Like Hell" this summer, which is nearly a home movie and clearly shot on low tech cameras and edited on a mac lap top; its about a small name NYC runner and its cool because it mixes the sick suffering with good motivation, its twisted without whinning I guess. I give it 3 out of 4 stars.

In Spain we are bring a "Sunday in Hell", thats a 4 out of 4.

John Hirsch

Eric said...

I downed some peanut M&M's John!

I'll have to check out "Run Like Hell" - sounds interesting.

"Sunday in Hell" is definitely the shit.