Posts Tagged ‘spirit of the marathon’

Believe me, dear readers, when I say what a soft consolation it is for me to spend some time writing on Pigtails Flying right now…

A week or so ago, I received an email notification that we can all pre-order the DVD (signed by the director, no less) of The Spirit of the Marathon. It’s on sale October 7th. If you haven’t seen this movie and you are reading this blog, there’s little to no excuse for you (GO SEE IT). Yes, harsh, but if you have seen the movie I am sure you’ll be inclined to agree…. I can’t remember if I ever posted the link to the Road Running Information Center’s 2007 Marathon Report. It’s not new anymore, but if you haven’t read it, it could still be news to you…. In January 2007 I ran my first marathon, P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon, and more than 20 of the miles were run side by side with KM. She’s raising money again with Team in Training, with a goal of $20,000 as she trains for the Nike Women’s Marathon. Do a good deed and donate your Starbuck’s money, willya?….

I neglected to include my usual bloggers’ race report round-up when I posted mine on the Queens Half last weekend, so here you go… Jbowers gives the visuals… Over at My Road to the 2009 NYC Marathon, this participant in the Worldwide Festival of Races spent her time “LOL”ing through the Queens Half… I’ve recently heard the term “worst PR ever,” and I think My Rambles would understand what that means, too… We all know what My First Marathon blogger Prakash is training for; and he met his personal goal last week… NYflygirl also PRed, (except not in Queens) she is fast, no joke, people….. 4:30 or Bust really struggled through the heat and humidity… Anyone else have a race report? Please post the permalink in my comments section, I want to hear from you.

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Wedged in between a morning of cleaning and an evening of shopping were two inspirational, honorable hours spent watching the world premier of the documentary film Run for Your Life, the story of Fred Lebow and the founding of the New York City Marathon.  The film is directed by Judd Ehrlich, who came to the story through his friend Moshe Katz, who is related to Lebow.

Needless to say, the theater was packed with runners.  The co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival asked for a show of hands of all the runners in the theater, and easily two-thirds of the room put their hand up.  Mary Wittenberg, the current President and CEO of New York Road Runners, was in the audience, as were many of the cast and crew, including Nina Kusick, the woman who won the first-ever NYC Marathon (four laps of Central Park — ugh!).

As a fan and participant in the sport, I already knew parts of the history of the New York City Marathon and Road Runners Club.  But this documentary is a marvellous, rich presentation of road running in my city, and of course, an even-handed presentation of Fred Lebow, the “P.T. Barnum” of road running.

I’m not going to give you a rundown of Lebow’s biography — you can get that from Wikipedia; or better yet, you can go watch this movie.  (Ehrlich’s team is hoping the film gets picked up for distribution.)  In any event, the man and his life certainly make for a great story, whether you are a runner or not.

What I loved most about this film was how the story of Fred Lebow is the story of the New York Road Runners, and of the growth of road running in New York City.  I’ve heard pieces of this story told through other sources, but Run for Your Life really pulled it together in one place.  Wittenberg even said, in a comment after the premier, how the documentary was a huge assist to the NYRR’s efforts to archive their history.  Hearing New York running legends like Corbitt, Spitzer, Rodgers, Shorter, Waitz, and Salazar talk about Fred and the NY Marathon felt like an important thing to be doing. I realize that I am able to train and race as much as I want because of those who came before me, because of pioneers like Fred Lebow. 

 This movie is full of “Ah-ha” moments, in which I recognized the roots of today’s running culture in the vanguard efforts of Lebow and the NYRR’s. For example, the original NYRR’s were a small group of men who ran solely in the Bronx.  I was more suprised to learn that they ran in the Bronx, around Yankee Stadium, than to realize how very few runners were in the community. In fact, the tenor of the film was more homage than expose, more history than recruitment. 

I can’t help but briefly compare it to the other movie I’ve recently seen about running, The Spirit of the Marathon.  That movie was inspirational, expansive, and sweeping; it made me cheer and wiggle in my seat; it felt like it was trying to convince folks to run the Chicago Marathon.  Watching The Spirit of the Marathon was like spectating at a world-class running event.  While Run for Your Life had a few of those moments — when Salazar set the world record, when Lebow crossed the finish line with Waitz at the only NYC Marathon he’d ever run — mainly, watching the Lebow movie felt like I was earning my chops as a New York runner by learning our history.  Now, I can go forth and be an ambassador to non-runners, runners from other cities, and even local runners who may not yet know the story.

Spirit of the Marathon was very much a movie for runners.  Run for Your Life is as much a movie for New Yorkers as it is for runners.  I told Husband when I got home that he would have loved the movie, because of all the history of our great city that by necessity comes into the story of Fred Lebow and the NYRR’s. The grandness of the New York City Marathon is certainly captured here.  The shots of the river of humanity pulsing over the Verranzano and 59th Street Bridges are enough to quicken my pulse, and make me think how excited I am to be one of those runners this November, running in the footsteps of legends like Fred Lebow.

To Judd and crew: well done, and thank you.

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I know a lot of folks are sorry they missed The Spirit of the Marathon (read my review here) movie the first (and second) time it came around to theaters in their city.  Yesterday I received an email update throught the film’s website’s mailing list saying they are touring the film again this Fall, timed to seasonal marathons around the nation.  Here’s the schedule:

  • Boston – April 17st  at 4:30 and 7:30 PM
  • Nashville – April 24th at 4:30 and 7:30 PM
  • Indianapolis – May 1st at 4:30 and 7:30 PM
  • Spokane/Seattle – May 1st at 4:30 and 7:30 PM
  • Los Angeles/Orange County – May 8th 4:30 and 7:30 PM
  • Denver/Boulder – May 22nd at 4:30 and 7:30 PM
  • San Diego – May 29th at 4:30 and 7:30 PM
  • Atlanta – July 1st at 4:30 and 7:30 PM
  • Virginia Beach – August 28th at 4:30 and 7:30 PM
  • Philadelphia – September 18th at 4:30 and 7:30 PM
  • San Jose – October 2nd at 4:30 and 7:30 PM
  • Chicago – October 9th at 4:30 and 7:30 PM
  • San Francisco – October 16th at 4:30 and 7:30 PM
  • Washington DC – October 23rd at 4:30 and 7:30 PM
  • New York City – October 30th at 4:30 and 7:30 PM
  • San Antonio – November 13th at at 4:30 and 7:30 PM
  • Memphis – December 4th Time TBD

Visit their website for more information and to buy tickets.  I can’t recommend this movie enough, even if you’re not a runner.  I know I sound like a broken record, but the marathon really is a metaphor for the human condition; therefore, The Spirit of the Marathon is as applicable to runners and philosophers as it is to couch potatoes, and yes, even cyclists.


I’m considering showing up for a repeat viewing myself, especially since I’ll be three short days away from my metaphorical expression of the human condition, and will surely be in full-blown tapering freak out.

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Watch Spirit of the Marathon, and you will know what I meant when I wrote in my review of Chariots of Fire that I wished it had been “more about running.”

This movie was not everything I could have hoped (because I am a pain in the ass), but it definitely came pretty close.  From the first scenes, where they had cutaways of the elites (Khalid! Tergat! Paula!), I was riveted.  (In fact, I was hoping for more audience participation, as if we were at a sporting event, but I was the only nutter cheering.)  When the film introduced Deena, and they showed her winning the bronze at the 2004 Summer Olympics, I cried for her win, and for the beauty of her performance.  That’s right, 10 minutes into the film I was teary-eyed, and I pretty much stayed that way until the lights came up. But you see, I am highly susceptible to the drama of the marathon, no matter if I am spectator or participant.

Perhaps my one complaint would have been more time on the elites! I cracked up when Paula Radcliffe says that the Chicago Marathon holds a special place in her heart because “it’s where I set my first world record.” Ah, relativism. I could watch the finish of Joanie Benoit coming into the Olympic Stadium in Los Angeles a million times & it would never fail to move me. It was a total thrill for me to listen to athletes like Kathy Switzer, Bill Rodgers, and Amby Burfoot opine in soundbites about the marathon, and about their marathons.  These are the runners who inspire me, their past performances awe me, and their experience pushes me forward.   The honesty and unflagging champion’s attitude Deena gave the camera during her injury made me respect her more (if possible) than I already do.  And I got a total kick out of spotting Brian Sell and his other HBDP teammates at the front of the pack when the documentary finally showed the start of the race everyone had been training for.

I cried when the doctor told the guy who was hoping to BQ that he had to put aside his marathon plans because of a torn miniscus.  I cried when the Kenyan came in third.  I cried when the older guy crossed the finish line with his daughter. (See? I wasn’t exaggerating when I said was susceptible.)

It would have been great if they had delved a little deeper into the experience of the fundraising runners, but I suppose that could almost be a whole nother movie.  Nevertheless, I left the theater wanting to immediately watch the movie again. (Memo to Husband: this DVD = great gift!)

You can find other reviews of this movie on these blogs: Paul Merca, Absolut(ly) Fit, Bethree.com, Normal Rockstar, Mike Fox’s Marathon Blog, and Pursuit of Runningness

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