A few weeks ago someone from my running club posted an announcement about a movie showing on Facebook. Spirit of the Marathon II: Rome had a one night only viewing at the AMC Loews on 19th Street in NYC on January 23rd. I dragged my dear non-running friend, Rodger, with me. There were about 50 people in the audience, I assume most of them were runners. The start time was supposed to be 7:00, but the organizer waited until everyone arrived so it was closer to 8.
Rome holds a special place in my heart. It is my favorite city in the world, maybe tied with New York. My father (a Venice native who grew up all over Italy and moved to America after meeting my mother in Rome at the age of 25) worked for Alitalia for 25 years. As children, my brother and I were fortunate to have traveled to Europe (Italy and France) to visit relatives multiple times. One year I brought my best friend along and another year my brother and I spent the entire summer in Sardegna. At the time, I didn't realize how lucky I was. Now that I am an adult with four children and no ties to any airlines, I am very aware of my past fortunes.
There is so much to love about the city: the food, the people, the attitude (la dolce vita!), the beautiful language, the art, and the history. I am a mediocre artist so the first time I saw works by da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael up close and personal, I was mesmerized. Seeing amazing stories played out on canvas in great detail just puts a child's imagination into overdrive. In some ways, these masterpieces destroyed any hope for me to understand and appreciate modern art. I mean, to see the Pieta in person at the Vatican and then to see a toilet bowl on display at the New Museum? Really? The latter is actually in the same category as the former? Really? And then there's the history. Thousands of years of grandeur, poverty, power, innovation, government, war, and peace all in one place. Amazing. I could go on and on. When the opportunity to watch a film that combines my love of Rome with my love of running arose, how could I say no?
The film is a documentary that follows seven runners from around the world as they prepare to run the marathon in Rome. Two of the runners are cousins, Mimmo and Domenico, in their 70's who have been running for over forty years. The third Italian in the film is a middle aged mother of two who opened a running store in her little village. The Rome Marathon would be her first. Two Americans are featured, as well. An older gentleman from the northeast who runs to heal from a family tragedy, and a Masters woman who vowed to run 52 marathons in 52 weeks to raise awareness to pancreatic cancer after her father's death. Finally, there are two elite runners. A Ukrainian man who is trying to qualify for the Olympics and a Rwandan woman who is hoping to run the race in a mind boggling 2:34. There were also interviews with the running gods throughout, including Grete Waitz, Haile Gebrselassie, Bill Rodgers, and Jeff Galloway.
Of course, I loved the film! That goes without saying. It was incredible to see how the elite runners train. In one scene, the Ukranian is running on the treadmill. He increases the speed to an unfathomable 18.5. Yes, they're kilometers, but it's still a 5 minute mile. You get to know and care about all of the runners. When they're finally running the marathon, I held my breath and kept my fingers crossed in hopes that each would meet his goal. Even my non-running (Italian loving) buddy was captivated.
I was so pumped up, the next day I watched the original Spirit of the Marathon: Chicago on Hulu for free. Summary: Not as good.
Official trailer to Spirit of the Marathon II: Rome