2 Jul

Lights, Camera, Action

The four fast girl actors

The recent release of the UK movie 'Fast Girls' is a rare outing on celluloid for running, sparked by the inevitable rise in interest in athletics ahead of this summer's Olympic Games. The film charts the relationships between four feisty female sprinters as their coach tries to mould them into a winning relay quartet. Shamefully, the film-makers were forced to build the story around the team striving for gold at a London-hosted World Athletics championships rather than the London Olympics.

Games authorities would not permit the use of the Olympic name for the movie, despite the seemingly obvious inspirational nature of the medium of film, particularly to the young. That aside, it's a light, feel-good movie that is an enjoyable mood-builder ahead of London 2012.

Whilst the girls have gold medals in their sights, it's fair to say they won't be getting their hands on any gold statuettes. One running film that did manage to win the Oscar - four in total - is the iconic 'Chariots of Fire' from 1981. That film tells the story of British sprinters Harold Abraham and Eric Liddell as they try to overcome the odds chasing glory at the 1924 Olympic Games. The powerful musical score has become something of an unofficial anthem of the Olympic Games and rarely fails to strike an emotional chord with audiences. If you haven't seen it, then it really must-see even if you have only a passing interest in the Olympics.

But Chariots of Fire is not the only running film worth a look. 1970s US long distance runner Steve Prefontaine was a huge figure in American sport breaking records from 2,000m to 10,000m and capturing the public's imagination with his distinctive bushy moustache and aggressive front-running style. He died tragically aged just 24 in a car crash. His life spawned three films; 1997's 'Prefontaine' starring Jared Leto, 1998's 'Without Limits' starring Billy Crudup and the 1995 documentary 'Fire on the Track'. All are well worth a look.

Staying with American cinema and the 1983 film 'Running Brave' is another which captures the spirit of the sport beautifully. It is the story of Bill Mills an obscure American-Indian who shocked the world by winning the 10,000m gold at the 1964 Olympic Games.

For a grittier film experience, then 1964 British flick 'The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner' is the one to watch. It tells of a troubled youngster housed at a borstal whose self-esteem and standing within the institution grow due to his blossoming ability for running.

So, there isn't a great breadth of choice when it comes to running films - especially in comparison to sports such as boxing or baseball - but of the ones that are out there, most are very good viewing.