I just got back from watching Spirit of the Marathon, a documentary by Jon Dunham that follows a number of athletes as they prepare for the 2005 Chicago Marathon. There must have been a fair number of people who bought tickets in advance, because they have already scheduled an encore presentation on February 21st, 2008. So if you missed seeing the movie tonight, tickets will become available starting tomorrow.

The theater was about 3/4 full, and everybody was having a good time. Many of the runners who came to watch the film gathered ahead of time at a restaurant outside the theater, and then chatted in the lobby of the theater as they filtered in. Despite being about 30 minutes early, my wife and I weren’t bored while we since we could listen to various conversations and talk to a few of the people that we knew as they arrived.

There were some hand made posters lining the wall outside the theater, and a van was parked outside that had Spirit of the Marathon quotes and messages scrawled all over it. Apparently, some folks from Bar Harbor decided to run to the race relay-style with each person running about a 20 mile leg today on the way down. It is about 130 miles from Bar Harbor to Brunswick, Maine.

I enjoyed the movie a lot, and I plan on purchasing it if and when it becomes available. Seeing it in the theater with a bunch of other runners is definitely worth the effort, though, because the crowd provided almost as much entertainment as the movie did. It is one of the few times that I haven’t been annoyed by people talking during a movie. When Joanie came on screen for the first time, everybody in the theater clapped and cheered.

The cameo appearances and interviews were well spaced amongst the scenes with the athletes that were followed during their training and throughout the race. The athletes that starred in the movie were well chosen and represented a good variety of different types of marathoners, from the elite level down to repeat marathoner in his 60s to a few first timers.

I was definitely able to relate to quite a few of the scenes during the training, and just about every little detail from marathon weekend through the end of the race brought back a flood of memories of my own marathons that I have done over the years. Given the hushed comments from people seating around me, I wasn’t the only one to experience this. After one scene that took place in a hotel the night before the race, where luggage and paraphernalia are strewn everywhere, my wife leaned over and whispered to me, “She needs a copy of your book.” I should see if I can get some contact info for her and send her a copy.

The final scenes of the race for Deena Kastor and Daniel Njenga were a little anti-climactic for me, since I already knew what was going to happen, but my wife and almost everybody else in the theater seemed at the edge of their seats and gasped and clapped in the appropriate places.

The one thing that bothered me about the movie was the score. Jeff Beal is a very talented composer, and for most of the movie he did a very good job. There were a few times, though, when he just hit you over the head to try to force an emotion on you and I actually rolled my eyes. The scene of the start of the race where the camera keeps panning back farther and farther and revealing the field of runners is rather awe-inspiring, but I’m a bigger fan of a more subtle touch than was displayed.

There were some extras at the end of the movie after the credits, including interviews and deleted scenes. I’m disappointed that the scene of Deena Kastor cooking enchiladas didn’t make it into the movie. Watching her cook certainly made me hungry.

Would I recommend that the average person go see the movie? I’m not so sure. As a runner and a marathoner, I (obviously) really enjoyed the movie. I can certainly picture myself enjoying the movie even if I weren’t a runner if I had a family member or close friend who was a runner and had put me at the periphery of the sport. Certainly not all of the people that were in the theater were runners. I am not so sure that I could relate to the movie as a complete non-runner with no connections to running, though. I’ll have to withhold judgement there until I hear from others that have seen the movie.

If you have ever run a marathon, or if you run regularly, then I definitely recommend that you go see it when it rescreens in February.