Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Spirit of the Marathon - 2007

Over the course of the last month or so, I’ve been seeing a lot of movies and on several of the previews was for a special event that they were having called Spirit of the Marathon. Basically, they followed the lives of 6 individuals and learned their stories of their quest to run their first or one of many marathons, the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon, specifically.

I got to the theater early, and luckily I did because when I walked up the ramp and scoured the theater, it was packed. Luckily it was just me flying solo so I found one of the approximately 3 remaining seats on an end. When it started there were only about 15 seats left open, almost all in the front row. I had no idea this would spark so much interest.

My interest was piqued because I went to the marathon this last year. Yes, the one that was over 95 degrees. I knew a couple people personally who were in it, and of course the city beckoned me to come down and watch with her. I never pass up an opportunity to go to the city. These pictures are from the 2007 marathon and I have one of the runners who was showcased in the movie on film. His bib is number 3 and can be seen in the aqua running outfit in the lead pack. Here are front and back views. I was camped at the half way point – 13 miles just east of the canal bridge on Madison Ave.



The wheelchair competitors were unbelievable. They were better athletes than I would bet 95 percent of the healthy two-legged Americans. Here is front and back views of the front wheelchair marathoner.



The documentary delved into the lives of an elite Kenyan male athlete, a female Olympian and long-time marathoner, a Chicago couple (also long-timers), a single mother first timer, a wife and student first-timer, and a 70 year old man and his daughter who were running (his 3rd) together (her first). They explored their stories, hometowns, situations, emotions throughout the entire training period through the race and then finally, the aftermath.

The music was superb. As with any movie, the soundtrack it gives to the emotions is just as powerful as the picture is, more so in my opinion. Music evokes more emotion sometimes than the visuals.

The director explained his reasoning for wanting to shoot this. Chicago, being one of the most beautiful cities, and also one of the cities that lent its hometown feel to it. The people are so involved because the course travels throughout the many unique neighborhoods that make the city great. Everyone in the city can get involved, they are the marathoners personal cheerleaders.

In fact, many, many of the athletes put their names on their shirts so spectators could shout out their names to get encouragement. I know it would work for me. It was especially nice seeing from my home state of Wisconsin with a Badgers running jersey or Iowa Hawkeye logo on their shorts…..or a handsome military man whose shirt reads, Team NAVY. Yummy. The runners would do their best to get the crowd into it, like this runner did. This was a common site where I was at for the front pack.


The cinematography was what first grabbed my interest. The shots of the starting line and then rising above the 40,000+ runners in their multicolored bibs and running paraphernalia were such sheer numbers, it was hard to believe this mass of color was actually separated by the steps that hit the pavement by their Asics and reeboks. The mass just kept going and going and going. It actually took my breath away to see the newly- created Millennium park (this was the 2005 Marathon that they were filming) in its splendor from that vantage point.

The sheer numbers baffled me. The runners would be grouped into their ‘times’ that they typically run, giving spectators easier chances of finding their loved ones in the crowd as they ran. If you knew your person was in the 4:30 time slot, then you could relax and enjoy the race instead of scouring the 40,000 faces and clothes for your person. This was about the mid-group that were running at that 4:00 range and still, they were packed.


I think the most poignant part of it all was the finish line. The pure emotion that the audience had been subjected to while watching and visually training with these people was amazing. The face contorted in pain, determination, and pure relief from not, well, dying on many of the finishers is forever emblazoned in my memory. My emotion overcame me, as well as many other watchers, in relief for these people whose drive was far exceeded than mine could ever be. I was proud of them, and I didn’t even know them. I admired them, for I knew I never had it in me to complete something so meaningful….at least not yet. OK, let’s be honest, probably never.

This man (as every other person) was relaxing and at one with his ice.


After the main showing and the credits, there were deleted scenes and additional ‘behind the scenes’ footage they showed as well, and an announcement that there would be another showing on February 21st. The ticket was higher than a normal ticket (for me it was $10.00 but worth it) because it is considered a special event.

If you have the chance to go, please do. It is well worth it and if you’re interested, you can go to to check out more details.

Happy running.

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