Thursday, February 21, 2008

Spirit of the Marathon - My Long Winded Review

A fine evening, as I joined Ian, Stephen and three of his co-workers for dinner and drinks at the Sea Dog Brewery in Topsham before seeing the documentary, "Spirit of the Marathon". Mindy was also there, but unfortunately, we didn't see her until afterwards.

I should mention that there are some spoilers below.

In short... not bad. Not great, but not bad.

Let me unpack that a little. The movie started out... well, hard to say because the audio cut out for several minutes in the beginning. I ran out to notify the theater folks of the problem and asked if they could restart it and they said no to that (and rather rudely, I might add). I retorted that they should at least offer refunds, and to their credit they did give out free movie passes to everyone after the movie was over.

Anywho, the movie was very well produced. A far cry from the lower budget documentaries on ultramarathons that I've grown accustomed to. The movie features six or so different runners of varying abilities: Two elite athletes (Deena Kastor and Daniel Njenga), a guy who was a bit better than a middle of the packer and his wife, a girl who was not quite a middle packer, and a few back of the packers.

That's a great mix, covering the spectrum nicely and increasing the chances of the audience (runners and non-runners alike) being able to relate to at least one of them in some capacity. However, the execution was a bit off the mark. For example, the guy who was a bit better than a middle of the packer was around my age, and had just missed qualifying for Boston in a previous attempt. The Chicago marathon was going to be where he would BQ, and then low and behold, he's having knee problems and is diagnosed with a torn meniscus. Gee, sounds very, very familiar. Unfortunately, that was it and not even midway through the movie, he all but disappeared , only to reappear towards the end to root his wife on as she ran the race. Well, did he have the surgery? Was it hard watching his wife continue to train when he couldn't? It really disrupted the flow.

But maybe that was just me since I really could relate to that guy. However, I got to thinking that they also really didn't get as personal with the other runners as they could have. I would have liked to have seen more glimpses into their lives and gotten to know them better. That would have gone a long way in making me want to root them on more. One running documentary that did this really well was Running on the Sun (Netflix has it). It was a shame because the potential seemed to be there to do so with this movie, especially since they chose a seemingly great group of folks. I'd grade that aspect a C-.

One thing I appreciated was how they explained the history of marathoning and how it has come to be what it is today. I learned a lot from it actually, and it really made me appreciate those who paved the way for how things are now. They earned an A on that front.

I think someone who hasn't done a marathon before but is thinking about it would really appreciate this movie. They'll get a better sense of what's involved and further see the rewards. The movie seemed more targeted for that demographic, which is great. But I think audiences would get more out of it if they dug in a little deeper with the characters.

Overall grade: C+

Just my two cents...

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