The list of our all-time best (and favorite) movies about running

Actor Bruce Dern (center, in black) runs with world-class athletes including New Zealand’s Rod Dixon (far left) during the shooting of the 1986 movie “On the Edge.” (Photo by David Madison).
      Some young athletes dream of one day catching a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl or hitting a home run in the World Series.
      Runners? The fantasy might be competing in the Summer Olympics, setting a world record or maybe even striding across the United States.
      Well, if you can’t live out that flight of fancy, the next best thing might be to set your imagination free by taking in a movie about running.
      Here are 20 of our favorite (and best) running flicks which are bound to get you inspired on a cold winter’s night in front of the television set.
      >1. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner: Yes, it’s 60 years old, in black and white and based on a novel by an author (Alan Sillitoe) probably few have heard of. But the plot – a young, imprisoned thief who gains privileges during incarceration due to his running ability – will keep you mesmerized. The ending will get you off your couch.
      >2. Chariots of Fire: Ever run down the beach at Cape May or Ocean City with a few buddies and wonder what it would be like if you were training for the Games? This movie, which grabs you from the opening iconic theme song, will get you into that feeling. The protagonists – USA hopefuls Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell – experience a wide range of emotions during their quest for the 1924 Paris Olympics.
      >3. Forrest Gump: Running is actually an underlying theme to this sometimes serious, sometimes wacky account of a gifted personality played brilliantly by Tom Hanks. Runners can appreciate and identify with some of Gump’s ideosyncracies and how these quirks play into his success as a lovable human being.
      >4. On the Edge: Could easily be No. 1 on this list just on the performance of venerable actor Bruce Dern, the lead figure in this motion picture. He plays 44-year-old Wes Holman, coming off a 20-year suspension for blowing the whistle on under-the-table payments to amateur athletes. The premise: Holman wants to complete the challenging Cielo-Sea 7.5-mile race (based on the real Dipsea race) over California mountains to the Pacific Ocean. He’s told he can’t run it but does anyway, sort of like Kathrine Switzer at the 1967 Boston Marathon. Oh, by the way, in real life Dern ran approximately 3,000 miles per year from ages 28 to 70.
      >5. Jericho Mile: Runner’s World magazine has this movie ranked No. 2 and hard to argue. Like “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner,’’ the movie centers around a prisoner (Peter Strauss) who trains his way behind bars to become one of the nation’s fastest milers. Like Dern, Strauss is a legit runner and helps make this improbable story a bit more realistic.
      >6. Without Limits: One of two movies on this list based on the legendary Steve Prefontaine, the late University of Oregon star who achieved his goal of making it to the 1972 Munich Olympics.
      >7. The Barkley Marathons: Basically a documentary about a crazy, wild long distance challenge through the backwoods of Tennessee. It’s a 100-mile challenge over extremely scruffy terrain. Only a handful of athletes have completed this ultramarathon test. Any run-of-the-mill marathoner will be cheering for the contestants.
      >8. Running Brave: The United States has never had much success in the Olympic men’s 10,000 meters but one exception happened in 1964 when Native American Billy Mills pulled off the unlikely upset. Again, it’s another tale about how hard work and running for a cause can translate into success.
      >9. Personal best: Like Chariots of Fire, the backbone of this tale centers on the training and what drives the exceptional athlete. Mariel Hemingway, granddaughter of the great author Ernest Hemingway, turns in a credible performance as a pentathlete on the way to big things.
      >10. The Terry Fox Story: He lost his leg to cancer but that didn’t stop him from making the running trek across his native Canada to help raise money for a cure to the disease. It’s all about the perseverance and determination.
      >11. Prefontaine: Similar to “Without Limits,’’ this account of Prefontaine’s life shows both the positives and negatives of Prefontaine’s personality. According to “Runner’s Goal’’ website, Prefontaine was told all his life he wasn’t fast enough, strong enough or good enough. He was out to prove the critics wrong. Died in an alcohol-related car crash in 1975.
      >12. 4 Minute Mile: The story of a teenage runner who must overcome a life of poverty, a gang of drug dealers and family turmoil. Hooking up with the right coach makes all the difference.
      >13. MacFarland, USA: For some, just having Kevin Costner in the cast is enough to justify two hours of your time. He plays a football coach who loses his job, winds up at a new school and turns a bunch of underachievers into one of the best cross-country teams in the state.
      >14. Gun Runners: Here’s real-life drama at its grittiest, with running tossed in for good measure. Some movie websites have it ranked as high as No. 5. Two Kenyan warriors swap their AK-47s for running shoes and they’re off to the races.
      >15. Race: The real-life plot is the stuff of historical greatness: American sprinter Jesse Owens goes to the 1936 Berlin Olympics and sticks it to German dictator Adolf Hitler big time. Get ready to cry in your popcorn.
      >16. Desert runners: It’s hot, it’s dry, it’s. . .Death Valley! And a lot more desert badlands. Non-professional runners like you and me travel the globe looking for the most challenging venues.
      >17. Finding traction: All you ultramarathoners and trail runners out there have probably seen this one but for those who haven’t, 41-year-old Nikki Kimball sets out to break the record in Vermont’s 273-mile Long Trail in 2012. Quite a quest.
      >18. The Long, Green Line: Like MacFarland, USA, this is a story about a high school team which achieves greatness through dedication and goal-setting. Here are the numbers: 221 try out for the team, only 20 of them will make the squad for the major meets.
      >19. Run for Your Life: If you’ve run the New York City Marathon you probably know it was started by Fred Lebow, a race entrepreneur from Europe. Faced with a terminal disease, he runs his own race with the legendary Grete Waitz before passing from the scene.
      >20. Spirit of the Marathon: The story of a half-dozen 26.2-milers who set their sights on the 2005 Chicago Marathon. It’s a race many Bucks County natives have taken on and excelled at. One big takeaway: The runners find taking on this challenge and completing can lead to success in other venues of life.
      >Race calendar
      Sunday, Feb. 12
      BCRR Winter Series Pick Your Way 5.3-Miler, 9 a.m., Tyler State Park, Newtown. Contact www.bcrrclub.com.
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About Wayne Fish 2473 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.