Run! You’re on camera

Hollywood doesn’t really get running.

Oh sure, people run in movies, here, there and everywhere, but they don’t do it well and their form is atrocious. It makes a real runner cringe.

It’s kind of weird, because in a town where so many people run to stay fit, look toned and keep in the best shape they can in order to get their first, big break or to be in that blockbuster, Tinsel Town doesn’t do running well.

Of course, running films are a genre on their own. Everyone’s seen the bio-pics on Pre, and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, and so on. Simon Pegg’s comic film on the marathon, Run Fatboy Run became an instant classic when it was released in 2007.

A personal favourite of mine is The Long Run, about a South African woman whom a coach picks out to run the 90-km Comrades Marathon.

And, of course: Run, Forrest, run.

What runner hasn’t had their non-running friends make that comment on their activity on Facebook, or yell at them from a car window? Everyone knows that film.

Life is a box of chocolates, isn’t it?

What I’m referring to, though, is when in the course of a film a star has to run.  Most of the time, it’s not good.

Suddenly everything you invested in the film, all the belief in the studio magic and in the realism of the characters, falls apart because – let’s face it – you find yourself criticizing their form.

Oh, you know you do; you can’t help yourself. You grimace at the way they heel strike and shake your head at the stiff follow-through in the arms.

My favorite recent example is Tom Cruise in Ghost Protocol. At one point he launches into an odd, rigid pace, his hands slicing the air like robotic knives. It looks sort of cool, if weird, but it’s not great running form, that’s for sure.

Or how about John Carter of Mars? You have to love the scene where the protagonist, finding himself on Mars, tries to run, but lands on his face repeatedly before he figures out that, with the aid of gravity, he can bound.

But it’s still not running.

George Clooney, though, gets the running Oscar. In the Coen Brothers’ hilarious Burn After Reading, Clooney is always ducking out after sex, saying: “I have time to get a run in.”

He’s the prototypical class A type runner, who will not, under any circumstance, miss his work-out. And he runs well in that film. At one point, he’s running through Washington and he’s loose, natural, relaxed. He looks like a runner.

Cut to The Descendants, Alexander Payne’s (Sideways) most recent film. A couple of times Clooney runs in the movie and it’s got to be a self-referential joke to Burn After Reading. The form is awkward, comic and stiff – in a word, brilliant. As a bit of acting, not as running.

Kudos to Mark Walhburg and Christian Bale in The Fighter. Their running form is solid, although Pearl Izumi fans might accuse them of ~cough~ jogging.

Reese Witherspoon looks fairly relaxed, loping along in New In Town, although she appears to be over-striding – probably a good candidate for a heel strike injury.

Who runs right in films? And who doesn’t? And how’s their style?

Add to the list.

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About subthree

A multiple award-winning journalist, I'm currently a contributing editor with both Canadian Running and Canadian Cycling magazines. My articles have appeared in Explore, Canadian Geographic, enRoute, The National Post, The Globe and Mail, and many other magazines and newspapers. Formerly a competitive cross-country mountain biker, I switched to running in 2006. I've run seven marathons, qualifying for Boston five times (and which I've run once). Generally, I've placed or won in my age group in races, in distances ranging from five and 10 kms to half and full marathons. I've also taught spin classes at a number of leading Eastern Canadian gyms. Sub-three was a 2012 #Runchat finalist for Best Overall Blog.
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2 Responses to Run! You’re on camera

  1. annieb123 says:

    That’s funny, I haven’t seen Ghost Protocol but I have thought that Tom Cruise was an example of a good runner in the past. The most impressive though would have to be Billy Crudup in Without Limits.

    • subthree says:

      Someone pointed out to me that Cruise doesn’t actually run, but rather sprints everywhere, which I thought was both true and funny. I’ll have to see Without Limits. That’s one I haven’t seen. Thanks for reading!

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