Running and the movies
Movies that capture the essence of running
Some movies just have that special something that inspires you to run. Here's three great running movies to dip into when you need a bit of running inspiration to get you moving.
Chariots of Fire
Titled after a line in William Blake's classic poem Jerusalem, the movie Chariots of Fire tells the story of two sprinters, Englishman Harold Abraham and the Scottish missionary, Eric Liddell, in their quest to fulfill two very different ambitions. Abraham's Jewish heritage attracted institutional prejudice at Cambridge and intolerance as he pursued his quest to win an Olympic sprint title. Liddell – a man of deep religious conviction – vowed not to compete on a Sunday and when his Olympic race was scheduled for that very day, he was forced to stand by his principles. What will be the outcome for these two great athletes as their lives intersect at the 1924 Paris Games? Beautifully filmed and decorated with a pulsating musical score from Vangelis, Chariots of Fire is one of the great running films of all time.
Rock and roll music learned long ago that if you want to give somebody the title “legend” they have to be controversial, have a disdain for authority, be blessed with immense talent but, most importantly, have a life that ends too soon (and it will help if it's in tragic circumstances).
The life of American distance runner Steve Prefontaine fits the mold. He once said: 'I don't run to see who has the best endurance, I run to see who has the most guts. I know that is me.' Without Limits (produced by Tom Cruise) tells the story of this colourful character and brilliantly cuts in live footage of his famous attempt to win a gold medal at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972.
While the first two movies mentioned should be easy to pick up, this one may be a little more difficult to locate. Starring Michael Crawford and Ryan O'Neal, The Games tells the story of four runners as they move toward an Olympic Games.
Crawford is a milkman who dispatches his produce by running from house to house at record speed. Before you can say homogenised, he is identified by Stanley Baxter, an intense and controlling coach with the belief that Crawford can be the best. Scenes filmed at the English National cross-country championships add scintillating realism to the story. There's a great scene of Crawford running up a steep hill while carrying his coach on his back.
Ryan O'Neal takes the role of an American College athlete who relies on stimulants to achieve his performances. 1950's heartthrob, Charles Aznavour, is a retired Russian athlete who is asked by his political masters to run one more time for 'the system'. We watch Aznavour strap on his Russian army boots and run off into the woods for a 40-mile run.
The last athlete is a young black athlete who is asked to give up his dream of winning the Olympic Games just minutes before the start of the race in a political statement against racial injustice. The Games is a remarkable movie that successfully weaves many themes that even to this day plague the Olympic movement.
So who wins these races? You are going to have to get hold of these running classics and grab a bucket of popcorn to find out for yourself.