Sports movies in general (at least, the good ones) have the wonderful habit of being absolutely inspiring. Which is quite funny when you think of it, considering how sedentary you need to be to watch them in the first place. With wonderful stories, most of them true or at least steeped in some degree of truth, they tell the tales of courage in the face of adversity, team-building with unlikely brothers or sisters, or they may simply tell the story of a few people looking to be the best at what they did and were willing to sacrifice a whole lot just to accomplish that. If you have ever run a marathon (or even just tried to get through 26.2 miles in one go), you’re probably very aware of the process and the difficulties with completing it in the first place. And watching a movie that can tell a heart-wrenching tale to add to that effect will generally not be lost on the audience.
The 2004 film, “Saint Ralph,” tells the story of a child’s desperate attempt to avoid becoming an orphan, by performing a miracle such as winning the Boston Marathon. While the story itself is fictional, the dedication and perseverance displayed within it are examples that director and marathon winner Mike McGowan hoped to instill within the titular character to inspire others. Ralph is a 14-year old boy without a father and with a mother who enters a coma following treatment for an illness. He falls into the less-than-good graces with the headmaster of his Catholic school and, as part of his penance, he is required to enlist with the cross-country team. During the process, Ralph struggles with the reality of his mother’s situation and believes that the only thing that could prevent him from becoming an orphan is a miracle – a miracle like winning the Boston Marathon. Being directed by a former marathon runner brings a genuine authenticity to the movie, and as the movie is set in 1954, McGowan notes that the movie focuses on the “uncomplicated nostalgia” of the sport and reinforces traits such as dedication, concentration and incredible work ethic.
“Spirit of the Marathon” is a 2007 non-fiction film that operates more like a documentary than a movie. Directed by another experienced marathon runner in Jon Dunham, the film actually takes place on four different continents and features a slew of athletes and marathon inspirations to tell the stories of six runners in a culmination of their journey toward the Chicago Marathon. Featuring the professional talents of Deena Kastor of California and Daniel Njenga of Kenya, along with four other amateur athletes, the movie acts more as a sports documentary that details the intense process of preparing for a marathon – in the case of two of the competitors, their first ever marathon. A sequel product, “Spirit of the Marathon II” was released in 2013, featuring the stories for four experienced marathon runners and three more amateur athletes, all who reveal their personal stories of setbacks with pain and loss, a growing determination and ultimately the training, dedication and ability to fulfill their goals of completing a marathon. There are marathons all over including New York and Pennsylvania.