Unbelievable Runners (in Film)

Anyone who has ever been inspired by watching well-trained runners practicing their craft has probably also been frustrated at the crude way those runners are portrayed on-screen in  movies and made-for-TV specials. Now, Alison Wad, Writing in Runners World, has written a thoughtful study of the issue: “Why Running Movies So Often Look Unbelievable.”

Wade is much more respectful than I would be. Instead of mocking movies that get running spectacularly wrong, she delves into the reasons and gives lots of examples. Among other things, she points out that by the time a script is turned into a movie or show, the original writer — who presumably knew what he or she was writing about — might be long gone, leaving the director few clues about how to portray the story.

If I had nothing else to do, I think it would be an interesting project to compile a list of movies in which running is featured and rate each one based on multiple criteria such as:

  • Are the actors convincing as runners?
  • Are the training scenes realistic/accurate?
  • Are the race scenes realistic/accurate?
  • Is the story plausible?

It strikes me that this list would only apply to portrayals meant to be taken seriously. There are plenty of scenes where running is being used to comment on something else (“Forrest Gump,” for example, or “Juno”).

I wonder if someone has already done something like this?

Anyway, you should read the article and watch the film clips. (Watching the running scene from “Chasing a Dream” was like hearing a Beethoven string quartet played on kazoos.)

About Jon Waldron

Running and Racing have been important parts of my life for as long as I can remember. I ran Track and Cross Country at Amherst HS, back in the day, and am proud to have been training and competing with the Cambridge Sports Union (CSU) for more than thirty years. If my bones hold out, I hope to continue for another thirty. Sixteen years ago, I began coaching, first as an Asst. Coach at Newton North HS in Newton, MA, and for the past ten years, as Head Track and Cross Country Coach at Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts. I've been writing about running for almost as long as I've been running, dating back to high school, when I would write meet summaries for the Amherst Record for about $0.33 per column inch. I've been blogging about running since 2005, and began blogging at "the runner eclectic" in 2014. Until recently I also had a day job, working full-time as a Technical Product Manager for Nuance Communications, based in Burlington, MA. But I am now on what might turn out to be a permanent sabbatical. Thank you for reading my blog, and please consider leaving a comment.
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1 Response to Unbelievable Runners (in Film)

  1. Julia says:

    Have you heard that professional runner and filmmaker, Alexi Pappas, is making a film called “Tracktown” in which she is staring in?! Check out the article: http://www.runnersworld.com/elite-runners/elite-alexi-pappas-filming-running-movie-in-eugene
    Perhaps this may begin to redefine how runners are being portrayed in film?

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