What’s more insane than trying to beat Kilian Jornet in an ultra, finishing five loops of the Barkley Marathons, or managing a XC high school team with 200 runners?
Aside from the feud between Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin, not much. And since you probably wasted most of this week binging Tiger King, you’re most likely in need of more content to take your mind off COVID-19 and the impending nationwide lockdown.
We got you covered.
We’re fans of any running content out there, and with races and group runs canceled, there’s no better time than now to indulge in some quality “me time.” Plus, studies have proven that binge-watching hours of running content on the couch is exponentially more beneficial than even five minutes of core conditioning. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself for years.
Hardcore running documentary enthusiasts: You may have heard of some (or all) of the movies listed below. But for those who are new to running or running films, here are some of our favorites that typically don’t show up in Netflix or Amazon recommendations. And bonus for you– they’re all free to watch.
Part two will come out next week.
Got any other recommendations? Hit us up in the comments below.
Available for free on YouTube for a short time, Unbreakable is an in-depth documentary on the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run. It follows four runners on their journey to win the 2010 race: the blissed-out Anton Krupicka, some young kid named Kilian Jornet, two-time defending champion Hal Koerner, and up-and-comer Geoff Roes.
With fantastic on-course footage and direction, as well as an intertwined history with founder Gordy Ansleigh, it’s an incredibly well-done documentary. Bonus points for the dope soundtrack, including that M83 song that I always listen to first thing on race morning.Watch on YouTube
A rare and beautiful look at the most legendary marathon of them all, from over a half-century ago. The film actually surfaced just a few years back, and offers some incredible behind-the-scenes and on-course footage, including a pre-Katherine Switzer Jock Semple (still angry and yelling at people), as well as beautiful footage of both John Kelley the Elder and John Kelley the Younger, as well as other legends of the sport.
My favorite part? The newsboys jumping onto the course trying to sell evening papers to the back of packers with front-page headlines announcing winner Aurèle Vandendriessche. Other fun facts: the main subject is Erich Segal, who wrote the screenplay for Yellow Submarine. Also, the final credits are laid over a beautiful jazz score. (Shoutout to Jeff Dengate for the rec).Watch on YouTube
Documenting the 2005 season of York High School (Elmhurst, Ill.) cross country and legendary coach Joe Newton, this film contains all those Friday Night Light things that can only come out of a high school story. On a quest for a 25th state title, Newton has to deal with a whole bunch of drama and fall-out, which may be unsurprising when you find out the York XC team consists of over 200 runners. While the film quality and direction are both a little raw, the content is as pure as an uncut gem. Coach Newton is everything you wish you had in a coach, either in sports or life.Watch on Amazon Prime
Also known as “the other Barkley Marathons movie,” this film (from The Ginger Runner production studio) documents ultrarunner Gary Robbins in his two attempts to conquer the race that eats its young. The two years of his journey reveal the monumental task of training for one of the world’s hardest races.
As a viewer, it’s hard not to become fully invested in the story, rooting for Gary as he tries to do something that less than 20 people in the history of running have done: Touch that gate at the end of a fifth loop. For a course and race that is notoriously secret (no cameras allowed), Ethan Newberry (The Ginger Runner himself) does a great job of keeping it engaging and suspenseful until the final harrowing scene, something better than any Hollywood comedy/dramady/tragedy.Watch on YouTube
This REI film is written, directed, and features Brendan Leonard (the dude behind Semi-Rad, everyone’s favorite Instagram illustrative graph account). It documents his effort in training and running his first 100-miler in September 2017 at the Run Rabbit Run 100. It’s a heartfelt look at running from a non-elite perspective. Just a dude grinding it out, doing the work, and documenting it, with one of his best friends along for the ride.Watch on YouTube