Need a way to waste time on rest day? Hit play on these running–focused documentaries and you’ll get your miles in, even if you don’t complete them yourself.
Free to Run1 of 10
(AP Photo/Ron Frehm, File)
The history of running is peppered with bold characters who helped shape the culture and create the sport we know today. "Free to Run" skillfully chronicles these characters, including icons like Kathrine Switzer, Steve Prefontaine and George Hirsch.
Running geeks will love the rich retelling of the sport's early days, when running was more counterculture movement than a massively mainstream form of recreation. From Switzer famously eluding race director Jock Semple at the Boston Marathon, to Steve Prefontaine fighting for amateur runners to get paid, the film's narrative hits all the highlights en route to the present day.
The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young2 of 10
Gary Cantrell, organizer of the Barkley Marathon. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
This documentary explores the Barkley Marathons, the insanely challenging endurance race that only 14 runners have finished in its 30-year history. The race, which takes place in a small town in Tennessee, has been called the hardest trail race in the world—and for good reason.
The challenge starts before the race even begins, with a secret registration process to bypass in order to be considered for one of the 35 entry slots. Those lucky enough to gain entry must complete either 60 or 100 miles in less than 60 hours. An unmarked course, lack of aid stations and exhausting mental and physical challenges make this one only for the bravest.
The movie follows both successful and unsuccessful runners, giving viewers a glimpse into just how grueling this race is.
Fast Women3 of 10
Susan Loken was the winner of the 2002 Tucson Marathon, the 2005 Vermont City Marathon and the 2005, 2006 and 2007 More Marathons. (26.Two Productions)
While the name of this documentary could fool some into thinking it belongs in the restricted section, it actually follows four women in pursuit of their individual running goals.
Three of the women are attempting to win a spot on the U.S. Olympic Marathon team, while a fourth hopes to qualify for the Boston Marathon after suffering a stroke. The touching movie, which won Best Documentary at the 2010 Mammoth Film Festival, will inspire and motivate you to push for your own personal goals—running or otherwise.
Run for Your Life4 of 10
This Aug. 19, 1992, file photo shows New York City Marathon director Fred Lebow and nine-time winner Grete Waitz, posed in New York's Central Park. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler, File)
This movie highlights the life and work of Fred Lebow, co-founder of the world's largest marathon, the New York City Marathon.
The film chronicles the history of running in New York City during the late '60s, painting a vivid picture of the sport as a strange, unpopular thing men did in their "underwear." Viewers will learn the story of how Romanian-born Lebow held the first race in 1970, run entirely in Central Park. Six years later, the race expanded to the five city boroughs, which it is still famous for today. From financial troubles to Playboy Bunnies, the race saw its share of ups and downs before taking off to become one of the world's most esteemed races.
Running on the Sun: The Badwater 1355 of 10
Three athletes running the equivalent of two marathons a day to be the first modern runners to cross the Sahara Desert's grueling 4,000 miles (6,437 kilometers). (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Imagine running 135 miles through Death Valley in the hottest part of summer. Now you can experience the sweat, heat and drama of one of the world's most infamous races on the small screen with this documentary that follows runners competing in the famous Badwater race.
Sit back and sip on an iced tea as you watch runners push their bodies to the extreme in one of the most brutal climates around.
Running the Sahara6 of 10
The women's U.S. Olympic Marathon team, from left, Blake Russell, Deena Kastor and Magdalena Lewy-Boulet pose at the finish of the U.S. Olympic marathon trials, Sunday, April 20, 2008, in Boston. Kastor finished first followed by Lewy-Boulet in second place and Russell in third. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
This movie by National Geographic follows three ultrarunning friends as they attempt both mental and physical endurance feats by running 50 miles per day for more than 100 days—in the Sahara Desert, no less.
You'll see the men struggle to stay on track and run into some unexpected things along the way.
The Spirit of the Marathon7 of 10
Calling all Deena Kastor fans! This film follows six runners—two elites (including Kastor) and four age groupers—during their training for the 2005 Chicago Marathon.
The documentary recaps a brief history of the noted 26.2-miler, and then delves into the individual stories of each runner highlighted in the film. Each runner has chosen to run the race for different reasons, but every story will touch and inspire viewers, culminating with Kastor's first major marathon victory.
Transcend8 of 10
Wesley Korir, of Kenya, warms up prior to the start of the 117th running of the Boston Marathon, in Hopkinton, Mass. Korir had recently been elected to Parliament in his native Kenya. (AP Photo/Stew Milne, File)
As an elite runner and a three-time major marathon winner, Kenyan Wesley Korir is at the top of his game. But running is only part of his story.
This film follows his journey from the podium to Parliament, as he aims to help his countrymen create better lives for themselves by running for Kenyan office. Korir continues to train for marathons during his campaign, overcoming time and energy hurdles to make a meaningful difference in a place he holds dear.
Ultramarathon Man: 50 Marathons, 50 Days, 50 States9 of 10
Ultramarathon Man Dean Karnazes, celebrates crossing the finish line of The ING New York City Marathon, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011 in New York. (Gary He/ AP Images for MOTOACTV)
Running one marathon is hard enough. Dean Karnazes set out to do 50 of them—in a 50-day period, in every single state in the U.S. This film follows his journey from planning to execution and every little detail in between.
Viewers will see Karnazes' family, the challenges he encounters along the way and the incredible people he meets in each state. Throughout the film, Karnazes tells the story of his mid-life crisis at 30 and how it brought him to be the runner and best-selling author he is now.