Running/Biking Documentaries

I love documentaries. Documentaries tell the stories of real people living out their dreams or in some cases, just crazy freaking ideas.  There are some incredible stories out there.  Here is my list of favorite running/biking documentaries plus two that I am anxious to see.

Spirit of the Marathon – I saw the “Spirit of the Marathon” a few years after my first marathon.  This film follows six runners, both elite runners and amateurs like myself, as they train for and run the 2005 Chicago Marathon. The film also gives the history of the marathon – from ancient Greece to the modern day race and includes interviews with famous marathon runners.  I like this quote from the LA Times on the film “Even if you’ve never run for anything but a bus, you’ll get swept up in this movie’s inspiring journey”.  The film is great for anyone who is not a runner because it helps them understand what the race is all about. I remember watching it the first time and realizing how much it captured my own experience training and running my first marathon. I still like to watch it when I run indoors on my treadmill. I feel like I’m running another race.



Spirit of the Marathon II – This film has the same format as the original “Spirit of the Marathon.” Instead of the Chicago Marathon, the film follows seven runners from around the world who train and run the Rome Marathon. I’ve only seen this movie once when it had a showing in June 2013 in movie theaters.  One of the people interviewed in the movie put it so eloquently – “The marathon is the biggest totally peaceful community activity in human history. “  I will never forget a woman from California. As she was running the race, she was chattering to everyone. There was an older Italian runner who looked at her and said “No talking! Only running!” This film was the one that made me start thinking about running a race in Europe.

Running the Sahara – As crazy as it may sound, there were three ultra marathoners who ran across the entire length of the African Sahara desert, over 4300 miles, through Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Libya and Egypt – from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.  They ran the equivalent of two marathons a day for 111 days with no days off.  I like to watch this film when I train on the treadmill for warmer weather races.  The soundtrack includes a Pearl Jam song – “Given to Fly” – that I love (and I don’t really like Pearl Jam).  When I run in the heat, that song pops into my head every time.

The film also focuses on the struggle that the people in this area go through to find clean water to sustain their life.  There is one scene that is etched in my brain forever.  They came across a 7-year old boy left alone to watch the family’s goats and sheep while his father went to find water.  His father would be gone 2 days.  He had little food or water and no shelter, just sitting there in the dark, and along come a bunch of white men. He had never seen white men in his life and he was terrified. They gave him food and water, and a flashlight. The last image they show of him is of him sitting in the dark turning the flashlight on and off. I get upset every time I think about that little boy sitting alone in the dark. It is a fascinating documentary that I highly recommend. Check out the web site for the  film and the H2O Africa Foundation that came out of this adventure.



Running on the Sun: The Badwater 135 – I have never seen this film but I am intrigued by the story behind it.  This film focuses on a 135-mile race through Death Valley in July when the temperature is so high it has been known to melt the soles off your shoes.  A place with a name “Death Valley” can’t be good.  Why anyone would want to run through the desert in July is something that boggles my mind.  I would love to see what sorts of runners take on this challenge.  (Apparently, due to safety concerns of the National Park Service, the 2014 race was not held.)

The Ride – Some of you may know the reality show “The Amazing Race” hosted by Phil Keoghan.  This documentary is about the bicycle trip Phil took across the US. We’re talking 3500+ miles of biking in rain, snow, heat, up mountains and screaming down the other side. He met lots of interesting people in his trek across the US too.  Although he originally was doing the ride to mark his 40th birthday, Phil also raised over $400,000 for the National MS Society during the ride. He has a cousin with MS. Phil said “the sad part of it for me is that MS takes movement away from people and I treasure being able to move so much. It breaks my heart that they get this gift taken away from them.”

Phil is making another documentary called “Le Ride” also to benefit the National MS Society.  In 2013 Phil rode a circa 1928 bike (no gears!) and followed as closely as possible the 1928 Tour de France route and schedule.  The clips that I have seen from his video diary show this one will be equally as interesting and entertaining.

Bicycle Dreams – When my husband started biking, I bought this DVD for him.  The film is about the Race Across America, a 3000-mile bicycle race from the Pacific to the Atlantic.  The best cyclists ride over 300-miles a day, barely sleeping (more like naps), and complete the race in under 10 days.  That is just nuts. The film also shows how dangerous it is out there and the risks of sharing the road with cars and trucks.



I am sitting here recuperating from my broken arm, unable to run for 3 months.  Maybe now is a good time to watch one of these videos again.

Updated:  now that I have mastered embedding YouTube videos, I added them to the original blog post and made one factual correction.