Running at the movies

/ 08:20 AM September 20, 2011

A fortnight ago I took a break from exhausting back-to-back long run weekends to watch Thelma.

Thelma (played by Maja Salvador) tells the story of a simple young girl from Ilocos whose family is beset with financial problems when she discovers her uncanny gift of speed despite running barefoot. Running promptly opens doors for the movie’s heroine providing her a college education, a chance to support her family (through her winnings) and a chance to run for the Philippine national team. The creators of this film claim to have drawn inspiration from the stories of true Filipino athletes who were discovered in the province and fought their way to represent the Philippines in the world stage.


The film excited me because Thelma is the only Filipino produced movie in recent history that revolves around running. Although I was amused watching Maja Salvador’s character heel-striking her way towards winning her first 5k “Marathon” (yes, the scriptwriters refer to a 5k as a marathon), I wish the movie focused more on the sport than on the melodrama about the character’s poverty and seemingly endless financial woes and adversities.

Nevertheless, the fact that producers and director Paul Soriano bothered to tackle the great sport of running, Pinoy style, is commendable.


Personally, the best running movie documentary I’ve ever seen so far is “Running on the Sun” which tells the story of 13 runners in the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon.

Another running documentary worth watching is Run for Your Life which chronicles the early stages of the New York Road Runners Club and its eccentric, prolific founder Fred Lebow. It also tells the early days of the New York City Marathon which started out with only 55 runners circling Central Park in loops to become one of the biggest if not the biggest and greatest marathon race in the world.

Here’s a list of the best running movies of all time as polled and ranked by runners via

Fire on the Track

Storyline: Documentary on Steve Prefontaine, America’s top distance runner in the 1970’s whose front running style, brashness and American records from 2,000m to 10,000m captivated the American track public like no other distance runner. He narrowly missed an Olympic medal in 1972 and then his life was tragically cut short in a car accident. Fire on the Track is excellently produced, has in-depth footage of the 1972 Olympic 5k final, with comments from Prefontaine’s competitors.

Without Limits

Incredible story of life of Steve Prefontaine who broke numerous American records, just missed an Olympic medal and revolutionized the idea of how some people race (from the front) before dying in a tragic car wreck in his prime.


Prefontaine’s story is worth remembering. Tom Cruise producer. Get a little on foundation of Nike with Bill Bowerman (Pre’s coach) being behind this movie. Other movie on Prefontaine, Prefontaine, will steal votes. Some say stretches truth a bit more than Prefontaine. Pre’s romance is stressed more in this movie than in Prefontaine.

Chariots of Fire

Fascinating story of two Olympic sprinters from Great Britain, Erick Liddell (devout Protestant) and Harold Abrahams (Jew), of vastly different backgrounds who run for different reasons in the 1924 Olympics. This classic won four Oscars including best picture. Inspirational, especially it’s famous soundtrack by Vangelis.


Tells the story of perhaps the greatest runner of all-time, Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie, leading up to his victory in the 1996 Olympic Games. Intersperses footage of Olympic 10k race throughout film. Footage of Gebrselassie running (in Ethiopian and Olympics) is truly incredible and worth seeing in its own right. Most of the actors are Gebrselassie’s real family members.

Jericho Mile

This is a made-for-TV movie about a man serving life sentence in prison who find hope in running. After running a sub-4 minute mile, he trains for the Munich Olympics from prison. The story is inspirational although fictional and sometimes unrealistic.

Loneliness of a Long-Distance Runner

Based on a book of the same title, it tells the story of rebellious youngster named Smith who finds comfort and security through his running skills while attending classes at a reformatory school after stealing from a local bakery. Running provides him with moments of quiet reflection to consider the choices he made—and the choices made for him. Runners can relate to the sense of peace and reflection provided by solitary runs, while non-runners can relate to the challenges we all face to our moral integrity on a daily basis.

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TAGS: Chariots of Fire, Cinema, Endurance, Fire on the Track, Jericho Mile, Without Limits
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