On a taper? Relax and be inspired by a good running film

Steve Prefontaine (here leading the pack in the 5,000 meters at the 1972 Munich Olympics) has been the subject of several films  Credit: Tony Duffy/Allsport
Exactly 29 days separate runners in training from the start of Grandma's Marathon in Duluth. For many, that means this weekend is the last time they'll fill water bottles and head out the door, like camels, for their last long run.

What can a runner do in the next few weeks — or before any race — while basking in the afterglow known as tapering? How about putting those feet up, making some popcorn, and watching a running movie?

Here are a few:

The Prefontaine genre: There are three films about Steve Prefontaine, the cocky, charismatic, rebellious runner known as James Dean in spikes.

Prefontaine died in a car crash at the age of 24. At the time of his death in 1975 he held every American distance record from 2,000 to 10,000 meters.

Minnetonka resident Bruce Mortenson, like Prefontaine, ran for the University of Oregon. And he calls Prefontaine the guttiest American runner he has ever seen.

So what's Mortenson's pick for the best Prefontaine film? The documentary titled Fire on the Track, which appeared on television in 1995 — and spawned the other two movies, Prefontaine (1997) and Without Limits (1998).

Between the latter two films, Mortenson gives the nod to Without Limits.

"The main thing was that it spent more time on Bill Bowerman," said Mortenson, referring to the legendary Oregon track coach. "I have a hard time separating Pre from Bowerman."

Moretenson also liked the fact that track scenes in Without Limits were filmed at Hayward Field, where Prefontaine attained rock-star status.

"When he ran at Hayward Field, it was unbelievable," Mortenson said. "It would be as if it was the final minute of the NBA playoffs and the score was tied and people were going crazy."

Both Without Limits and Prefontaine are available for rental. Fire on the Track can be purchased at Amazon.com for $19.95.

Chariots of Fire (1981): This film, which won the 1981 Oscar for best picture, is based on the true stories of Scottish missionary Eric Liddell and Jewish Cambridge student Harold Abrahams, both of whom ran for Great Britain in the 1924 Olympics. What this film has is a sense of the joy in running. For this, watch the opening and closing scenes of the British team running along the shore — against the musical backdrop of Vangelis' Oscar-winning score.

Endurance (1999): This film, available for rental, tells the story of Ethiopian distance runner Haile Gebrselassie, who won gold at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. While the pace of the film is a bit slow, it is beautifully photographed. And the scenes of Gebrselassie running are, in a word, awesome.

Running Brave (1983): This is the story of Sioux runner Billy Mills, who won a gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It's available for purchase.

The Jericho Mile (1979): Filmed in Folsom Prison, it tells the story of a man serving a life sentence for murder — and training for the Olympics. While the film is out of print, it occasionally shows up on cable movie channels, and on the Web auction site Ebay.

Other running titles available for purchase: Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962); The Jesse Owens Story (1984).

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