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Crossing the line
A documentary follows long-distance runners as they strive for glory
More than a million people enter a marathon each year. Why? Because, says Boston Marathon great Dick Beardsley, "When you cross that finish line - no matter how slow, no matter how fast - it will change your life forever." Along the way, the journey means something different to everyone.
'Spirit of the Marathon'
» On screen: 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday (coming to DVD Oct. 7)
Place: Cupola Theatre, Honolulu Design Center
» Cost: $10
» Information: Don Brown, firstname.lastname@example.org
» View trailer: www.marathonmovie.com
That's the gist of an inspirational and substantive new documentary showing at the Honolulu Design Center this week. "Spirit of the Marathon" examines the meaning of the distance race by following elite runners Daniel Muturi, a Kenyan runner living in Japan, and 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor as they prepare for the 2005 Chicago Marathon.
But perhaps even more intriguing are profiles of several average people using the marathon as a measure of personal achievement. Leah Caille is a single mom attempting her first marathon in an effort to lose weight and recover from a divorce. Others are Ryan Bradley, hoping to qualify for the historic Boston Marathon and contending with setbacks along the way, and senior marathoner Jerry Meyers.
The interwoven stories follow the runners through the ups and downs of early mornings and long miles, their struggle with the fear of pain and failure, and the raw emotion of crossing the finish line. Anyone preparing to run the Honolulu Marathon will appreciate the entire 1 hour and 45 minutes - especially the opening sequence of historic, triumphant and tragic performances.
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Director Jon Dunham behind the camera in Africa.
"Sometimes the moments that challenge us the most define us," says Kastor. Memorable scenes include watching Paula Radcliffe, the world record holder and greatest female marathoner of all time, break down in the middle of the marathon at the 2004 Olympics, as well as the moment when Kastor realizes she will earn the bronze, and bursts into tears on the final stretch in the same Olympic Games. Anyone who doesn't remember what Kathrine Switzer experienced when she tried to become the first woman to finish the Boston Marathon in 1967 will be shocked (Boston finally allowed women to enter in 1972) when she retells her story of nearly getting shoved off the course by indignant officials who didn't know that K. Switzer was a woman until they saw her running.
"You triumph over adversity - that's what the marathon is all about," Switzer says in the film. "And therefore, you know that there isn't anything in life you can't triumph over after that."
Filmed on four continents with commentary from marathon legends Bill Rodgers and Grete Waitz, the documentary also features Frank Shorter, the 1972 Olympic gold medalist who has finished the Honolulu Marathon 20 times.
Directed by John Dunham, who ran his first marathon in 1993 and became hooked, the film has done well on the festival circuit, winning the audience award at the Chicago International Film Festival last year. But Dunham has said that he didn't want to make a documentary for runners, "as I believe the lessons learned in training for and running a marathon transcend the sport." Consequently, he avoided runner jargon that might alienate general audiences.
Indeed, anyone can identify with Leah Caille through her personal odyssey. "I had really reached a point in my life when I didn't think I would ever be happy again," she says onscreen, choking back tears. "And (the training) has really given me such a positive outlook. I think I can pretty much do anything."