Soon after I saw the first Spirit of the Marathon, it became such an inspiration and motivation for me that I’d see it every time I was on the treadmill. Especially powerful since the movie was about Chicago Marathon and I was training for the Chicago marathon. Or maybe I was inspired to sign up for Chicago over Marine Corps or anything else because I watched it. Whatever be the reason, I watched it every. single. week. of training. Which meant, I saw the movie AT LEAST 24 x 2 times, for the 24 training weeks and 2 midweek basement treadmill runs. Pure and simple triumph of the human spirit, I could watch it endlessly.
The second documentary “The Spirit of the Marathon II”, which follows 7 runners in their journey through Rome Marathon 2012, had a special screening show this week. Even though Rome is not on my bucket list (I don’t know why it is not!), having visited Rome and being in love with the ancient city (and marathons), this was a must watch for me.
Like every runner who runs a marathon (or a 5k or anything else in between and beyond), these 7 runners had stories they were running for – the simple joy of keeping the tradition of running in all 18 of the Rome Marathons while training with your cousin, running for a lost son, raising money for a charity, battling personal emotions, running to leave behind a history of genocide and bring about change in a country, and running for personal glory to qualify for the London Olympics. (Read more about the cast at the official site here).
What I liked about the movie
- The movie opened up with scenes of throngs of people moving into corrals past the relics of the ancient Roman Forum, a mass of colors with the Colosseum as the backdrop, the same (or similar) music to the one used in first one. And just like that 10 minutes into the movie, my heart swelled up with emotion and and tears, echoing the emotions of those thousands of people just about to start the climactic end of a 6month old journey. Having run only the Little Rock Marathon since my Chicago Marathon last year, it made me realize how much I’ve missed standing at the start line of races.
- The back stories of each runners were very well explored. Each of these runners either brought out laughter or hope out of the audience. The scenes of carb-loading, the loss of a son that a runner was struggling with, and even the ever peppy but slightly annoying (on screen) Marathon Goddess, and more; giving proof to the fact that a marathon is so much much more than the mere running of 26.2 miles.
- The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. The movie had several flyover shots of Rome, but the ones that moved me most were the scenes next to the Colosseum. Having seen the sheer size of the Colosseum, and my over active imagination recreating the gladiators, the soldiers and animals, and now seeing the mass of runners move along as tiny dots on screen – it made me feel that humans try forever to capture that raw physical prowess mixed with mental strength. The gladiators then, and the runners now, both in the Colosseum to battle it out.
Another favorite scene was the one showing the Italian cousins train under the aqueduct ruins. (Yes, I am a history buff and I love ancient civilizations.) Again, a reminder of what the human body is capable of – from building huge aqueducts to running a marathon at age 72!
- There was a segment on the rise of urban marathons, the history of Italian Olympic marathoners, and Grete Waitz (among other snippets). One of segments I recognized was the olympic marathoner falling, getting up and falling again and again before crossing the finish, but being disqualified because he was ‘helped’ by officials. I had seen this long before I even thought of running and the memory had stayed with me, but to see this now and understand exactly what he was going through – that was powerful. (See the video of Dorando Petri in the 1908 London Olympics, the event responsible for the actual 26.2 miles of today)
What I felt could have been a little tighter
- Half my emotion bank was spent within the first 10 minutes of the movie. Personally, I feel that I could’ve responded a little better if the actual marathon start had not been shown until the end. That continuity was missing for me.
- I wish they had expanded on the actual running of the marathon. After getting to know the runners so well, the end seemed rushed and it was over too soon. I was left wanting more.
- There was a lot, I mean a lot of reference to the New York City Marathon. Why, I wondered. This was a story about an international marathon (for US audiences) to highlight the global diversity of runners. Although NYCM does have diverse runners, why choose to follow the Rome marathon and then talk all about NYCM I wonder?
- There was a sprinkling of interviewing the marathon greats. I wish there had been more.
Would I watch this again? Heck, yes! No doubt about that.
Did it make me want to do a marathon again? Heck, yes! I cannot wait to sign up for my next one, and then some more!
Does it put Rome on my bucket list? Yes! It did for sure.
Now – when do I win that lottery of an awesome running season and race/travel money (throw in some babysitting lottery as well) so I can start signing up?