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Case Number 14804

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Spirit Of The Marathon

Image Entertainment // 2007 // 102 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // October 22nd, 2008

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All Rise...

Judge Roy Hrab can run like wind—for about 30 yards.

The Charge

"When You Cross the Finish Line, It Will Change Your Life Forever"

Opening Statement

Tens of thousands of people run marathons every year. Chances are that you know someone who has completed, or at least attempted to complete, a marathon.

A marathon is 26 miles 385 yards. Do you think you can run that far? Haile Gebrselassie set the current world record at the 2008 Berlin Marathon 2 hours 3 minutes 59 seconds. How long would it take you?

Can a movie inspire a non-runner to a run a marathon or is it just preaching to the choir? Let's find out!

Facts of the Case

Every fall, beginning in 1977, thousands of runners congregate in Chicago, Illinois, to run the Chicago Marathon. Spirit of the Marathon follows six runners, elite and amateur, preparing for the 2005 race.

The marathon took place on October 9, 2005. 45,000 runners registered for the race and 32,995 finished.

The Evidence

I'm in decent shape and play multiple sports, but I have never run a marathon. However, friends of mine have run multiple marathons. I've never really understood why they decided to punish their bodies this way.

Spirit of the Marathon is an engaging but not always convincing attempt to explain why people run marathons. For the elite runners profiled, Daniel Njenda and Deena Kastor, the answer is relatively straight-forward: running is their livelihood.

However, the rationale for the amateurs is less well defined. For example, Leah Caille completing the marathon is an attempt to reset her life following a divorce. Then there is Jerry Meyers, 70-years-old, who is preparing to run his fifth Chicago Marathon. Why? Because he can. Other runners do it because they want to prove to themselves that they can. Spirit of the Marathon follows these runners from the start of their training all the way to crossing the finish line. It is a well constructed film, offering some insight into running and a fair amount of drama. Some runners encounter injury problems during their training and are faced with the prospect they may not be able to compete. By the time the race arrives, it's hard not root for the participants to do well.

Leading up to the race, director Jon Dunham interviews famous runners and presents an interesting history about marathon running. As is well known, the marathon originated from the ancient Battle of Marathon between Greece and the Persian Empire. However, it is the more recent history that Dunham presents that is the most interesting. For example, women marathons did not occur for most of the 20th century because many thought that the physical exertion was too much for females and might cause a woman's uterus to fall out. Needless to say, the prevailing wisdom about woman and marathons has changed dramatically.

The video and audio are solid, but not exceptional. All visuals and sounds are clear.

The extras are slim. There is a short "Making Of" featurette that includes interviews with Dunham, runners, and some members of the production crew. Some deleted scenes, including a funny scene featuring Njenda showing the film crew some hippos in Kenya. There is also a theatrical trailer.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Spirit of the Marathon didn't change my lack of desire to run a marathon. Further, while providing some information about why runners run, I still lack a good understanding about why people choose to participate in marathon. Part of the problem is that profiling 6 runners is probably 2 runners too many. With the exception of Njenda, who trains in Japan, but lives in Kenya, the movie doesn't have time to develop an interesting picture of those profiled. More importantly, it doesn't sit the runners down and have them open up about the reasons they run.

It all still seems rather mysterious, but, to be fair, I don't understand why people want to put their lives at risk and climb Mt. Everest. And, I suppose, I would have a difficult time explaining why I enjoy sprinting so much. Perhaps, like many personal pursuits, there is no accurate way to put into words one's rationale for doing something that is completely voluntary.

Closing Statement

While interesting for non-runners, Spirit of the Marathon's true audience is marathon runners. I watched the film with a friend that has run marathons; she enjoyed it immensely, finding it inspiring. If that's not an endorsement of Spirit of the Marathon then I don't know what is.

The Verdict

I do not understand why people run marathons, but I will defend their right to do so: Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 80
Audio: 80
Extras: 40
Acting: 75
Story: 80
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: Image Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Spanish
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
• Documentary
• Fitness and Exercise
• Sports

Distinguishing Marks

• "Making Of" Featurette
• Theatrical Trailer


• IMDb
• Official Site
• The Chicago Marathon

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