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Spirit of the Marathon

I saw Spirit of the Marathon last night and the only bad thing about the movie is that they didn’t play any previews before it. When they said it started at 7:30 they really meant it started at 7:30. I should have left more time to figure out how to use the automated ticketing machine and to make a bathroom run. Instead, I entered the dark theatre just as the title credit was coming up and had to sit pretty far up front because the theatre was packed.

Spirit of the Marathon is a documentary about a ghost who haunts a marathon. Okay, no, it’s actually about several people training for the Chicago Marathon – from newbies to elite athletes. It also covers the history of marathoning and explores what drives people to run over 26 miles. It was playing as a one-night only engagement across the country, and it occurred to me as I was watching the film that I should have mentioned this on the blog in case anyone wanted to go see it. Lucky for me, the web site says there will be an encore performance on February 21, in selected cities, so go see if your city is selected. I might go again just to see if I missed anything important before the opening titles. If you are interested in long-distance running, I’d definitely recommend that you see this movie. The “I” word gets thrown around a lot here, but it truly was “inspirational.” I wanted to go run a marathon as soon as I left the theatre. Then I got outside in the 4 degree weather and decided to walk quickly to my car instead.

When I saw footage of the training group running along the lakefront path in Chicago, I started bouncing in my seat thinking, “I’ve been there! That’s where I rode a bike and Kathleen tried to kill me!” I was also strangely happy to see that other people had foot and knee problems too. I’ve attributed my injuries to my own non-athleticism and lack of proper stretching knowledge, so it’s reassuring to know other people make the same mistakes or have bodies victim to wear and tear too. It’s not just former fat girls.

I was also surprised by how many running pros I recognized in the movie. They’d flash people’s names under their faces and I kept thinking, “Oh yeah, Paula Radcliffe. I’ve heard of her. Hal Higdon. Yep, him too. Kathy Switzer. Of course, first woman to run the Boston marathon. She rocks!” And on and on and on. I guess I know more about running than I thought I did. It was also obvious that the theatre was packed with runners because they laughed at things that a non-running audience wouldn’t have. When one of the first-time marathoners was talking onscreen about telling her friends that she was running the race, she said they’d ask her, “Cool, do you think you can win?” The theatre erupted with laughter.

I learned several things about women in running too. Women were banned from long-distance running events for a long time because of an incident where a group of women ran in very hot weather and started collapsing. It was thus determined that women were delicate little flowers and should only run short distances. Some people also thought long-distance running would cause a woman’s uterus to fall out. (That one really had the crowd in stitches.) Big props to all the women who came before me and paved an easier way for me. Kathy Switzer had to register as K.V. Switzer to run the Boston Marathon and some guy jumped at her and tried to pull her out of the race. All I had to do to sign up for my half-marathon was give the Internet my credit card number.

But, as jazzed as I am, I’m still planning on skipping my Saturday morning training run tomorrow because 1) I want to give my foot a few more days to heal and 2) It’s been freakin’ cold all week and I don’t think it’s going to stop tomorrow. As I write this at 7:42 in the morning, my weather widget says it’s 0 degrees out. As we all know, 6 degrees is my limit.

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Karen • January 25, 2008 at 8:03 am

I admire you. I think I might start running in the spring. I live in the Chicago south suburbs, and running in -5 degree weather is not appealing right now. I have a hard time running on the treadmill at the gym. I feel like I am going to fall. We had a marathon here last summer (I think it was the Chicago marathon.) It was so hot one person died, and hundreds collapsed and had to be rushed to the hospital. There was not enough water to give to the runners. They ended up stopping the race early.


Debbi • January 25, 2008 at 8:43 am

Thanks so much for the review! I’m thrilled to know it will be shown again; I thought I might have to wait for the DVD. Although I still may have to wait, depending on location.

Your enthusiasm for your Indy race comes shining through this post. I sure wish I thought I could run two halfs on two consecutive weekends … somehow I don’t see that happening, though. But having all these virtual training buddies helps a lot out here in the Middle of Nowhere.


Marla • January 25, 2008 at 8:58 am

…cause the UTERUS to FALL OUT??

Huh. Funny how nobody was concerned about the uteri of women working 14 hours a day in factories, or plowing fields, or… oh never mind!

Famous running people: One time I almost hit Frank Shorter with my car when he unexpectedly ran into the street without LOOKING FIRST. That was way before your time.


Melsky • January 25, 2008 at 11:00 am

I got all excited when you said it was about a ghost who haunts a marathon. I would totally see that movie.


vickie • January 25, 2008 at 1:19 pm

I appreciate your post on this. My brother is a (full) marathon runner and is in one of the cities where it will be showing in February. I sent him a link to the site you indicated. Thanks for posting this.


Laura • January 25, 2008 at 1:44 pm

Cool! I’m glad you got to go. It’s amazing how much running as a sport and as a recreation has changed in the last couple of decades. One of the best things I’ve done since I started running was to read about running. I guess it’s like dieting–I figured if I wanted to succeed, I needed to read about it. So I bought a book on women runners and _No Need for Speed_ and started buying Runners World every month. I will never be anywhere near the level of the elite runners in RW, but just reading about their dedication and success is motivating and “the I word.”

Hope your foot continues to heal. (And because my kids have been total sickos this month, I’m completely behind on training miles for the Indy half, too. We’ll get caught up! Those first 3 weeks are easy peasy anyway. The end of Feb and March start to look pretty intense. Oy.)


Lynne • January 25, 2008 at 3:06 pm

Don’t skip your workout!! Be strong! Be a polar bear!


Stephanie Quilao • January 25, 2008 at 6:59 pm

Thanks for your review. I want to go see the movie too being that I’ve been a runner for years, and the only other running type movie I’ve seen is Chariots of Fire. Geez! I’m dating myself…lol..


Mrs. Duffy • January 25, 2008 at 7:57 pm

That’s cool you went to see it! I’ve been hearing about it for months, then when it comes, I forget entirely. And being that I live in New York, it’s not as though access is a problem — *laziness*, though, is another story… I’m glad to hear it’ll be back. And rest and let your foot heal if you need to; no sense in injuring it worse and missing your half altogether, is there?


Kyle • January 25, 2008 at 9:18 pm

Ahhh, PQ, how I love you. Hey that rhymed, awesome! Anyways, back to why I love you. You make a simple movie review funny enough to have me chuckling out loud as I read it :)

Oh and you should definitely go see this movie on Feb. 21st. It’s my birthday. Watch a marathon running movie to celebrate 24 years of Kyle’s life!


K • January 26, 2008 at 7:44 am

How have I not heard that women were banned from marathons for years? Not that it surprises me… but now I want to go and find out more.

I read this book a little while back and was surprised to learn that in the era of the First World War, there were already women competing in athletic events in Britain and playing professional football (soccer)… but they were working-class women. So maybe they got away with it because they were expected to be tough already?


Beth • January 26, 2008 at 5:29 pm

I just watched the “Spirt of the Marathon” Thursday night with a running friend. We both absolutely loved it, too! We were in tears at times, and laughing at others. I wish there was more info on the internet about Kathy Switzer. She did an amazing act by running the Boston Marathon. Like you, I left the theatre wanting to run right then, but we had about -20 degrees in Duluth, Minnesota, and I decided against it. I’m going out for a run/walk now. Congrats on your weight loss!!!


Cat • January 27, 2008 at 10:14 am

Thanks for the tip about the rebroadcast on 2/21 — my city is on the list! A marathon has always been near the top of my internal to-do list.


Heather • January 27, 2008 at 11:17 am

I was told running would cause my uterus to fall out and I ran, and ran, and ran — and then I got pregnant even on birth control pills! No fair! ;)


Nancy • January 27, 2008 at 12:29 pm

omigod.. I would’ve loved to see that movie.. I checked, and it’s playing 40 miles away from me… I will try to make it… sounds good!


victoria • January 27, 2008 at 7:30 pm

I just discovered your blog. I’m so excited that I found it! You are such a good writer, and you are honest, and brave, and your story is very interesting. What I admire about this blog is not your extraordinary weight loss (although that is impressive) but your character and intelligence and candor. What really grabs me is your acknolwedgment that you were not living in reality, that you suppressed knowledge of the problem, and that you had to struggle to accept it as a fact. This is really important for me, not only with respect to my weight but with so many areas in my life where self-deception is a problem. In a college philosphy class, my professor opined that self-deception is not possible, but I think it is, actually: it is a habit of focusing attention on things that are comfortable to think about, and ignoring things that are not. Your blog is compelling because it charts that effort to become aware of those things that are uncomfortable to think about.


tsmith • January 28, 2008 at 4:37 pm

I can relate to the getting injured and it stalling your workouts. I had lost weight before and had hurt my hip running the treadmill. I unfortuniatly gained all the weight back when I got hurt and was no longer able to work out and then started eatting lots of bad things. I have recently lost 50pounds and am doing well, but I reinjured my hip recently. I am working with a personal trainer and she has modified my workouts and made me take a week off. I knew that it would be hard to get back at it, and it has been. I do not know if it is just that I am being lazy and not working out or if I am worried that I will hurt myself again. Well I hope that your foot feels better and take it easy on it for now. I will be doing the same.


Julie • January 29, 2008 at 5:47 am

On my to watch list. =)


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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