But despite all the records, accolades and races, she had never won a major marathon prior to running Chicago in 2005—not even the U.S. Olympic trials marathon. This film tracks her path to victory, running 2 hour, 21 minutes, 25 seconds, a new American record at the time. This triumph came despite a debilitating foot injury (broken bone in her foot) that interrupted her training and had her “running” in a pool for fitness. This triumph—and its accompanying tribulations—make her story all the more arresting. She followed Chicago with her record-setting win in London the following spring. Her London win produced the fourth fastest women’s marathon in history: 2:19:36.
She was one of many stars originally contacted by Dunham—even before her medal-winning Olympic Games. And the crew focused more and more on her as her training progressed, especially since she was training for Chicago—the central event of the film.
“I simply went about my normal routine and training,” said Kastor, “and they followed and filmed as we went. I did not find it distracting. In fact, it was motivating.”
“I was struck by the similarities for us as we prepared for the Chicago Marathon,” she said. “Everyone had hurdles and setbacks, and everyone struggled through long runs—it was so similar despite the different levels of training and pace.”
“I went into that race very confident—I don’t know where that came from—but I was supremely confident,” Kastor recalled. “I ended up winning by only five seconds, and I hit the wall for the first time.”
Talking about the other runners in the film, Kastor explained, “We do many of the same things to get ready, and we have the same concerns, fears, doubts, nerves. The six of us became the focus as Chicago approached, but we didn’t meet each other until a post-race brunch. That was terrific, and emotional—an immediate bond of friendship.”
“It was a thrill to be involved in this project with such a great crew. And Jon has such a tremendous passion for the marathon,” she said. “It could not have been done by someone unfamiliar with our sport.”
Joan Benoit Samuelson heads a list of marathon notables also making appearances in Spirit of the Marathon. There are interviews and vignettes from some of the greats of the sport: Olympic marathon gold medalist, Frank Shorter; four-time Boston winner, four-time New York winner and two-time Olympian, Bill Rodgers; Boston and New York champion, Alberto Salazar; Paula Radcliffe; Greta Waitz; Paul Tergat; Amby Burfoot; Hal Higdon and many more—a who’s who of the marathon in recent decades.
The film is enhanced by an emotional score written by Jeff Beal and played by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Prague, which beautifully blends the emotion, strain and exhilaration of the marathon—and the dogged preparation that comes before.
Spirit of the Marathon, earned tremendous acclaim and the Audience Choice Award in its debut at the 43rd Chicago International Film Festival in October of 2007. It won similar acclaim at the inaugural Mammoth Lakes Film Festival a month later.
At last, a film that captures the drama, personal sacrifice and incomparable reward of the marathon for all of us. Spirit of the Marathon is a movie all runners must see; and one all others should see. It will have you primed to get on the road and trail. And it will reinforce for all, once you cross that finish line, your life will never be the same.