10 Motivational Movies and Documentaries For Runners

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Inspiration and motivation to get things done, can come from anywhere. Movies are, in this new time and age, the perfect catalyst to motivate an individual to get things done.

The natural high, the adrenaline rush and the chills down the spine during that climatic or a character defining scene is pure awesomeness to say the very least.

Sticking to the spirit of video entertainment material and our emphasis to the art and sport of running, here are 10 must see movies & documentaries that will inspire the runners inside you!

The titles mentioned are not ranked.

  • Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

For any Indian, this movie needs no introduction. The film adaptation of the immortal Milkha ‘The Flying Sikh’ Singh is nothing short of a runners motivational gold cave. The film captures every defining moment of his life along with some fantastically​ cinematographic track scenes make this movie that much of a delight. There is just one problem, that being the length of the film owing to those unnecessary scenes which do not move the plot ahead. It almost feels like everyone in the crew forgot about the option to edit.

Its a great movie to motivate you to put on your running shoes, given you sit out the 3 h 10 m run time.

  • Marathon Boy

48 full marathons by the age of 4 and a 40 mile (65km) run in about 7 hours. The documentary revolves around the young indian boy, sold by his mother to be left on the streets, who finds his way to glory with the motivation and training by Biranchi Das. Apart from Budhia’s natural inhibition to run for long, the story also covers the dark truth and controversy surrounding Das and Budhia. Child Welfare associations claim Budhia being taken advantage of for financial gain. The coverage by Gemma Atwal is a chilling insight into the child sensation and the dark truth and controversy surrounding this sensation.

  • Chariots of Fire

A movie narrating the struggles and lives of two different persons competing in the 1924 Paris Olympics for two different reasons. One attempting to mark his undying religious faith while the other trying to prove to the world that the Jews aren’t inferior and should be accepted. The storytelling, screenplay and most importantly musical score is truly amazing, winning a total of 4 Oscars for the same.

Though, this is not an entirely running based story, the individual personalities in context of running should fire up your running spirits.

  • Running on the Sun : The Badwater 135

A documentary by Mel Stuart following the athletes of the 1999 Badwater UltraMarathon measuring at 135 miles through California’s Death Valley in July. The reported temperatures reach upto a scorching 50° C. The amazing and unbelievable part is, they don’t even compete for a prize but owing to the insanity, that is the love for running.

  • Spirit of the Marathon

The documentary covers the emotions and struggles of six athletes preparing for the 2005 Chicago Marathon. Apart from covering the history of the event, insight and moments in history, the documentary beautifully gives an insight into the runners’ heightened emotions, hard work that goes into the preparation, the injuries, the let downs etc. The coverage fantastically outlines all the aspects defining the athlete in context of the event while distancing itself from the tedious part of overdoing the details.

This is probably the best option for all aspiring runners to motivate and also provide with the right info that comes into play with in the sport of running.

  • The Jericho Mile

Serving a life sentence for a murder, Larry Murphy (Peter Strauss) is a man of few words who silently runs along the tracks of the prison. His time records grab the wardens attention who tends to his training. Though he is uninterested​ at first, his behaviour comes around. The movie follows his intense training, supported by the fellow inmates, as well as the humanistic emotions that define the men in prison. Especially Murphy, who has made himself an outcast among outcasts.

The emotional drama and Peter Strauss’s acting keep you hooked on making the movie that much more inspirational.

  • Running the Sahara

A 4620 mile run across the Sahara Desert. 3 men take off on a journey for H2O Africa, an organisation bringing attention to the parts of Africa that need water wells in the desert. The movie covers their seemingly never ending journey facing various obstacles like dehydration, border crossing issues, camera crew, medical assistance and so on. Narrated by Matt Damon (Also one of the producers), the journey is one for the runners who dream of the unthinkable and extreme.

  • Personal Best

A Sam Blair documentary based on three professional runners, James Ellington, Jeanette Kwakye and Richard Alleyne and their preparation to compete in the 2012 London Olympics. A feature dedicated to the youth of Great Britain. As opposed to most documentaries and feature movies, Personal Best brings light upon the dark truths of the sport. Injuries, the intense, sometimes too intense, training, the sacrifices are some of the many aspects covered. While most reviews have been positive, few opine that it may discourage and scare away young aspiring runners. But like Fletcher (JK Simmons)from Whiplash says, “The next Charlie Parker would not be discouraged!”

  • Ultra Marathon Man

The movie follows Dean Karnazes, an ultrarunner, who runs 50 marathons in 50 different states in 50 days. As if the feat in itself wasn’t a big deal, all this was to create awareness about childhood obesity while also inspiring everyone to become active in their lifestyles in any way they so choose. It wasn’t a solo run across various cities, rather he collaborated with local runners who would join him running only on certified marathon courses.

The motive was simple yet amazing. The collective attempt to bring about inspiration among people was fantastic. The film captures the moments really well conveying the message exactly as they would’ve liked.

  • Run For Your Life

Founded by Fred Lebow, a runner and race director from Romania, the New York Marathon has grown to be the largest running event on the planet with over 50000 finishers in 2016 and 90000+ applicants for 2017 already. The first edition was in 1970 with only 55 participants, one of them being Lebow himself. The run slowly became the face of fitness among the people who took to the streets and actively participated in the event. The run goes through the 5 boroughs of New York City. The feature Run For Your Life covers Lebow’s journey in setting up an event that would now be the largest running event while also defining an era of physical fitness.

If you do ever get a chance to participate in the event, be sure to experience the thrill of a lifetime.


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