Who doesn’t love inspirational movies about running? It’s the next best thing to watching an exciting race where the underdog beats the favored athlete.
When I’m training for the races on my marathon bucket list, I use these movies for a mental break and an inspiration boost. I then tend to visualize particular scenes during my training runs.
This is my list of what I consider the best running movies.
Running Movies Are Inspirational
When most people think of running and inspirational movies, they probably think of “Rocky” and “Chariots of Fire with the Olympic Games.” While these are both great movies (especially Chariots of Fire), I left them off this list and listed some other options.
Let me know what you think of each running movie below.
McFarland, USA tells the true story of a cross-country coach who leads a group of underprivileged kids to victory. Kevin Costner stars as the coach.
If I had Wings
Another movie I enjoy is If I Had Wings. It’s a great movie about a blind teenager who dreams of running for his high school’s cross-country team.
Brittany Runs a Marathon
Finally, Brittany Runs a Marathon is a comedy-drama that follows a woman’s journey to running her first marathon. She transitions from couch surfer to long-distance runner. Girls like this more than guys I think.
Run, Fat Boy, Run
For example, Run, Fat Boy, Run follows an out-of-shape man who needs to lose weight but decides to run a marathon to win back his ex-girlfriend.
It’s a part cheesy and part heartwarming running movie that shows that anyone can become a long-distance runner with a little bit of determination. It’s probably more cheesy than anything else, but it’s still funny.
All of these movies are relatively recent releases and might not be as well-known as some of the classics, but they are definitely worth checking out.
Movies That Showcase Professional Runners
These movies are dramas about real-life professionals. Their stories will inspire you.
On the other end of the spectrum, Without Limits tells the story of Steve Prefontaine, an Olympic runner who was known for his aggressive racing style and his tragic death at a young age.
Without Limits is a great choice for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of running and the athletes who have pushed the sport to its limits. It stars Bily Crudup as Steve Prefontaine.
Another movie I’d recommend is Endurance, which is the story of Haile Gebrselassie’s life. From his meager roots in Ethiopia to winning the gold medal at the 1996 Olympics.
It’s not a documentary, but rather a dramatic reenactment of his life and family life growing up.
Documentaries – My Favorite
While there are plenty of great narrative films about running, there are also some amazing documentary film choices out there. These are truly inspiring.
The Long Green Line
This movie is simply great. The Long Green Line follows legendary high school coach Joe Newton and the cross-country team of York High School as they try to get their 25th state title. 221 boys try out for the cross-country team each season knowing that 214 won’t get to travel to the meets. This is way more than a simple running documentary. Watch it.
Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young
One of my favorites is The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young. This documentary follows a group of runners as they attempt to complete one of the most grueling ultramarathons in the world, held in the hills of Tennessee. It’s a fascinating look at a race that few people know about, and it’s sure to leave you feeling inspired.
If you think the Boston Marathon is hard, just wait.
Spirit of the Marathon
Another great documentary is “Spirit of the Marathon”, which follows six runners as they train to run the 2005 Chicago Marathon.
If you’re training for a marathon or are already a marathon runner, you’ll relate to their training struggles and challenges getting across the finish line.
Kipchoge: The Last Milestone
Kipchoge: The Last Milestone follows Eliud Kipchoge’s quest to become the first person in history to run a marathon in under two hours.
He has two gold medals, but watching him attempt the impossible is truly inspiring.
Bannister: Everest on the Track
Roger Bannister accomplished what many people said was impossible – run a mile in under four minutes. Bannister: Everest on the Track is a documentary that details the incredible pressure he was under and the dedication it took to achieve this amazing feat, especially right after the world war.
It’s a period piece similar to Chariots of Fire but on the track and one man up against the impossible.
Run For Your Life
This is the story of Fred Lebow and the creation and growth of the New York City Marathon.
This running movie has a lot of running footage for the distance runner but also highlights the struggles of putting on the greatest marathon in the world.
New York City marathon runners will especially love this film.
Hopefully, you’ll agree with me and love these movies.
If you’re interested in chatting more about running or triathlons, feel free to reach out to me. I’m always happy to talk about my favorite sport and share tips and advice with fellow runners.
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