I love a good documentary, don’t you? So the combination of running and a documentary is perfection! Most of the below movies can be found on Netflix, YouTube, etc.
1. Spirit of the Marathon
If you are training for your first marathon or your 50th marathon, this movie is inspiring. It’s an old one- it came out in 2007. It follows the training of several different athletes, from novice to elite, when preparing for the Chicago marathon.
“Spirit of the Marathon is the first film to capture the passion, drama and essence of the famed 26.2-mile Chicago Marathon. Intimate, fascinating portraits of six runners from all walks of life unfold as the film follows seasoned athletes and amateurs alike in their preparation for the big race. See why the Los Angeles Times said “Even if you’ve never run for anything but a bus, you’ll… get swept up in this movie’s inspiring journey”!
2. Spirit of the Marathon 2
I’ll be honest that I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as the first one, but it was still a good documentary. In this movie, we follow along with runners training for the ROME marathon.
“Spirit of the Marathon II weaves the compelling stories of each runner – the trials and the triumphs – that paved their road to Rome. The documentary also features insightful interviews with marathon greats such as Stefano Baldini, Paula Radcliffe, Frank Shorter, and many others, as they offer perspective and insight into this legendary race.”
3. Unbreakable: The Western States 100
Incredible footage. Incredible story. Incredible athletes.
Oh, this is a good one!
“In 2010, four of the greatest undefeated mountain runners on earth toed the starting line at the Western States 100-mile endurance run, the oldest and most prestigious 100-mile foot race in the world. ‘Unbreakable: The Western States 100’ follows the four lead men on this amazing journey. Hal Koerner, two time defending Western States champion, and running store entrepreneur from Ashland, Oregon. Geoff Roes, undefeated at the 100-mile distance, an organic chef from Juneau, Alaska. Anton Krupicka, undefeated in every ultramarathon he has ever started, a graduate student living in Boulder, Colorado. Kilian Jornet, the young mountain runner and two time Ultra-trail du Mont-Blanc champion, from Spain.
While their lives may be quite different, the goal is the same: win the Western States 100-mile run. A win will require breaking the course record and running the fastest time in the history of the race. An epic showdown ensues, from Squaw Valley, CA in Lake Tahoe, up though the high snow covered Sierra Nevada Mountains, down through the extreme heat of the American River Canyons and finishing in Auburn, CA. Though all four are undefeated, three must break and only one can remain Unbreakable.
4. Running the Sahara
This movie is intense. I cannot believe what these guys put themselves through. Fascinating to watch and narrated by Matt Damon.
Produced and narrated by Matt Damon. Running the Sahara is a 2007 documentary feature film that chronicles Ray Zahab, Charlie Engle, and Kevin Lin’s attempt to run across the entire Sahara desert. They traveled a total of 6920 kilometers, reaching the Red Sea on February 20, 2007.
5. The Barkley Marathons
“A famous prison escape sparks the idea for a cult-like race that has seen only 10 finishers in its first 25 years. This award-winning, oddly inspiring, and wildly funny documentary reveals the sports world’s most guarded secret.”
Brand-new, available on Netflix. Kind of my new obsession right now. This is a fascinating documentary, whether you’re a trail runner or ultra runner or not; this race is totally unique and I really enjoyed learning about it and following along in the challenge. HIGHLY recommend this one!
Bonus item: I couldn’t just pick five and I’m sure there are more good ones that I missed. Please share in the comments!
So just for kicks, here’s a BONUS documentary:
6. Running on the Sun.
This one has a few pretty gory scenes…seriously. It’s a bit dated- I think it came out in 2000 and you can tell that the quality isn’t quite as good as the newer ones mentioned above, but it still really interesting.
“Forty runners compete in the most grueling race on earth, the Badwater. The film documents the trials and tribulations of these athletes as they run 135 miles through Death Valley in July and explores the motivations behind this seemingly masochistic contest. A celebration of the perseverance of the human will beyond the limits of the human body.”
Let me know if I missed any of your favorites!