Why Running Movies Almost Always Miss the Mark

By: James McLean

Remember seeing movies in a theater? It was a good time. Usually with a few close buds, popcorn, soda, Milk Duds (controversial, but for another time). Movies are a great time. The lights go down, and you're ready to be transported somewhere else. One of the hardest blows you can feel is when a movie not only misses the mark, but when it ruins the very thing you love. 

Now, sports movies in general have a hard time hitting any shred of realism. Hoosiers has some of the worst coaching decisions ever found on film. Friday Night Lights’ make-up department had a horror movie’s budget for blood during the State Championship game. And how could we forget that in some small town in the U.S., someone thought it was okay to have a dog play Basketball. 

But across all sports and athletics, no sport has seen as much disrespect as running. Yes, I know there are running movies that exist that are not horrible, but these movies just don’t hit what we want as a running community. You can have a decent script, solid actors, but ultimately there is just something missing in running movies and the answer is quite simple: runners. 

Runners are a critical bunch, and if you put someone in a movie who has not run as much as a 5K before pre-production, there's little chance we're going to see any shred of reality within the race. While this can be called out in every movie (McFarland USA’s final race, Chariots of Fire’s training sequences, and basically any running scene in Unbroken) I’m not here to bash, I’m here to make a solution.

Make the Harrier the official Running Czars of Film and Television. 

Anytime a writing staff or director needs a running scene, we come in as the proper authorities. Need to show someone on a tempo run? We got you. Is someone about to kick at then end of a race? Stop right now, we can take it from here. Anything from a person’s stride to how their arms move, let the professionals take over and let us give your movie some authenticity. 

While this may be a pipe dream, perhaps just getting these words out into the universe will set the wheels in motion. Perhaps someday, some director reads this article and realizes most people don’t full-out sprint a marathon. 

But until people take our offer, we will stand as pessimistically optimistic fans of movies we know could be way better. 

1 comment

  • I would support that take with you guys as the monitor – but to give a bit of credit where credit is due they did pull in some real folks (pat Porter 9 time USAXC champ was Viren) in Without Limits and did a not so bad job of trying to interweave the bits of the filming with the 1972 olympic race. I also dont think much of the training sequences may have been that off in Chariots of Fire either although the actors were not runners in the past – notably Ben Cross who was a pack or more a day smoker before the film, Mussabini was known for being quite advanced in his time using many different drills and techniques at that time – they also had a guy like Jackson Shultz and Jennie Liddel involved in the making of the movie so there could for sure be some truths there. The other one you should see if you can find it is On the Edge – its Bruce Dern who is a lifelong runner but also had a cast of runners like Gary Bjorkland in it.


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