Monday, November 9, 2009

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

I love to run. I especially like to run long distances. (For more about my running endeavors, go here.) I had heard of this movie title, and think of it frequently when I am out on a long distance run. I usually don't feel particularly lonely. Alone, but in good way. I like this title because I like the loneliness/solitude/aloneness of the long distance run.

Unfortunately, I like the title of the movie much more than I like the movie itself. Originally released in 1962, the style reflects the times. There is some quality acting, to be sure, but the editing drove me crazy. Flashbacks can, of course, be very effective in films, but here they were just jarring.

The long distance runner in question, caught in a petty burglary, gets shipped off to a reform school which looks more like a private prep school than juvenille hall. The teachers notice his speed during a soccer match and recruit him to run the distance race against a neighboring prep school. As part of his training, they entrust him with the freedom to leave the grounds and run through the countryside. The movie flashes back to the events that landed him in reform school and culminates in the big meet with the other school. I won't tell you who won.

Like I said, I didn't like the style of the movie, and am not too fond of the story, and was pretty disappointed in the ending. But one thing I LOVED about the movie: the long distance running itself. When Colin leaves the school gates and runs through the fields, his joyful running inspired me. Leaping and bounding like a deer, or, more simply, like a child at play, he runs and runs.

Oftentimes, this joy and abondonment is missing during my runs. I tend to have a goal time and pace, a pre-set schdule for the day's run, and a focus on my GPS. I want to meet certain goals, but I also want to capture that joy of running that Colin displays. It's the same kind of attitude that Christopher McDougall conveys in his book Born to Run. His accounts of the running of both the Tarahumara indians of northern Mexico and American ultrarunners beautifully convey running for the love of running.

Bottom line, for the movie alone, I'll give it 2 stars.
But for some running inspiration, it earns 4 stars.

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