The New York City Marathon came and went yesterday, with tens of thousands of anonymous runners completing lifelong goals and running farther than many of us do in our lifetimes. It’s a rare instance in which the relatively boring act of running is brought to the forefront of the public consciousness. Sure, races can bring high drama, but that aspect is generally limited to the last 30 seconds or so of races that can take hours.
Films shy away from depictions of running for this reason, but they don’t avoid it altogether. Below are seven runners who heroically (and impossibly) make running interesting, if only for a few seconds. Let’s congratulate these skinny, dorky entrants as we peruse the list, shall we?
We’ll kick off with a lesser-known, but nonetheless awesome German film about real-life marathoner Johann Kastenberger (fictionalized as Johann Rettenberger), who made name for himself as a very prolific bank robber. He was no recreational runner, but rather among his nation’s most elite, placing in and winning several races. His speed wasn’t able to keep him out of jail his whole career, though. I don’t want to give away any plot details, so check out the film (on Netflix Instant) for the story, or wait for the Americanized version, which is slated to star Andrew Garfield.
Marathon Man isn’t just a clever title. In this seminal film that will probably ruin dentists for you, Dustin Hoffman plays a marathoner NYC grad student who runs afoul of some Nazi holdouts who have designs on a WWII diamond selloff. Sure, the running here is only tangential to the plot, but running is a boring enough activity that any reference to it in films is enough to get fired up about. (Sorta. I guess.)
As far as vanilla marathon running PhD candidates go, Hoffman’s Babe Levy proves himself to be a pretty tough cookie.