Runners High (USA, 2006, Directors: Justine Jacob and Alan D. Da Silva, 85 minutes): I am a total sucker for the inspirational sports doc, and every year I seem to gush about at least one of them. But even though this follows a tried-and-true formula, I never cease to be amazed at what teenagers can do when they’re motivated and given a little help from some caring adults.
The film tells the story of four teens involved in a program called Students Run Oakland, which recruits “at-risk” high-schoolers to join a four-month training program to run the Los Angeles Marathon. There’s a lot of sweat and tough love and in the end, no real surprises, but I still felt a huge rush of emotion watching these kids actually make it to Los Angeles to join 25,000 other runners. And I wasn’t alone. The audience burst into spontaneous applause several times near the end of the film. There was some great use of sound; for instance, after all the hoopla at the start of the marathon, when the runners are out there at mile 18 or something, all they can hear are the sounds of their shoes hitting the pavement, their laboured breathing, and the pounding of their hearts. I haven’t run a full marathon, but have run a lot of shorter races, and this felt true to my experience. Running is monotonous, it’s lonely, but when you accomplish something, there really is a “runner’s high.”