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Bloomsday cage match

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | April 30, 2010 9:00 PM

In honor of Bloomsday in Spokane this weekend, and also as a tribute to our former entertainment editor Tyler Wilson who still helps us out, The Press presents - a cage match!

Well, it's sort of a cage match that will pit running movies in a race to the finish line to earn the gold medal, break the ribbon, take first place, or perhaps just inspire thousands of Bloomies in these final days before they take on Sunday's 7.46-mile race.

Anyway, the starting gun is up ...

"Without Limits" vs. "Prefontaine"

Both movies came out in the late '90s and tell the story of Steve Prefontaine, perhaps America's most famous runner. He was a James Dean type known for his front running, guts, being outspoken and going for it at the University of Oregon. In the 5,000 meters final in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, he finished fourth. He died, sadly, in a car crash on May 30, 1974 at the age of 24.

Anyway, back to the movies. "Without Limits" stars Billy Crudup and handles the Olympic race better and details how Pre really made the race and ended up out of the medals. But it doesn't have quite enough running and tries to tell more about Pre as a person. "Prefontaine" stars Jared Leto, has a much stronger opening scene and covers the 1972 U.S. Olympic trials well, which Without Limits ignores. It's close, but Leto looks more like a runner.

Winner: "Prefontaine"

"Chariots of Fire" vs. "Endurance"

This is a tough one. The 1981 film "Chariots of Fire" follows two runners on their way to the 1924 Olympics. One is Scottish Eric Liddell, a devout Christian who won't run on Sunday. The other is Harold Abrahams, an Englishman who is Jewish and has a chip on his shoulder. Both are faster than hell and ultimately overcome their own challenges and demons to win their respective Olympic races, Liddell the 400 and Abrahams the 100. The theme from the soundtrack, of course, is legendary.

"Endurance" is the story of my favorite runner of all time, Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie, from growing up the son of a poor farmer to winning the 10,000 meters gold medal in the 1996 Olympics. The opening running scene of Haile gliding effortlessly along, bounding around rocks and holes and hills, is simply spectacular. Wow. It's probably a film only a diehard runner would like, but it's worth watching it right up to the final, last lap sprint to victory!

Winner: "Endurance"

"Saint Ralph" vs. "Run Fatboy Run"

"Saint Ralph" is a 2004 Canadian film featuring a 14-year-old boy named Ralph Walker who sets out to win the 1954 Boston Marathon because he believes it will snap his mother out of a coma. This is preposterous, of course, and no boy could win Boston, but the training scenes and the race are inspiring. I fast forward through the build up of character and opening scenes. It's a feel-good tale that makes you wish you were young again and that committed to anything.

"Run Fatboy Run" is a 2007 film starring Simon Pegg as an out-of-shape security guard who dumps his wife-to-be (Thandie Newton) at the altar and regrets it. He later sets out to run the London Marathon to prove he can do something other than screw up and hopefully, win her back as a prize. When he hits the wall, literally, in the marathon, it's really how many marathoners feel. You'll guess the ending. He hobbles his way through all 26.2 miles to the waiting arms of his beloved at the end.

Winner: "Saint Ralph"

"Jericho Mile" vs. "Running Brave"

"Jericho Mile" was a 1979 TV special starring Peter Stauss as Rain Murphy, stuck in prison for killing his abusive father. Rain also happens to run like the wind and soon, he's beating inmates and anyone else around the track they make for him so he can qualify for the Olympics. Problem: They don't like to let killers in the Olympic games. Highlight: Training to "Sympathy for the Devil," by the Stones is a knockout.

"Running Brave" is a 1983 film starring Robbie Benson as Billy Mills. It's a true story of Mills, a North American Indian, who beats the odds and overcomes racism to wins the 10,000 meters at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It is considered one of the greatest upsets ever. The charge by Mills in the final 100 meters is a thing of beauty and something all runners dream about.

Winner: "Jericho Mile"

"Forrest Gump" vs. "Marathon Man"

Well, neither of these is technically a running movie, but they do have running in them.

"Forrest Gump" stars Tom Hanks and gave birth to the phrase, "Run, Forrest, Run." Forrest also jogs across the country just because he "felt like running."

"Marathon Man" stars Dustin Hoffman as a runner with killers after him because they think his secret agent brother told him some critical information before he dies. He didn't, but that's not the point. Hoffman escapes his captors because he can run far and long, and they can't.

Winner: "Marathon Man"

So, we come down to these five stepping up the starting line in the final heat: Lane 1, "Prefontaine" Lane 2, "Endurance" Lane 3, "St. Ralph" Lane 4, "Marathon Man" and Lane 5, "Jericho Mile"

And the winner of the title of the best running movie of all time, based on this scientific survey you just read, is: "Endurance." My hero Haile is the best. No one runs like Haile.

Now, have fun at Bloomsday. And remember to raise your arms in triumph as you finish.

Bill Buley is city editor of the Coeur d'Alene Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, ext. 2016, or bbuley@cdapress.com.

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