I love running movies. I guess you could say I’m collecting them. There’s something motivational about watching a good one when you’re training or just about to race. It’s hard to find a truly comprehensive list out there. Here’s my list of what I’ve seen:
I recently added “On the Edge” to my “seen it” list thanks to its mention in the recent Runner’s World article about Bruce Dern. A lifelong runner with some serious cred (e.g. 100,000 miles!), Dern brings authenticity to his starring role in this 1986 movie. The movie holds up well despite a goofy 80s synth soundtrack (it’s no Chariots of Fire, I guess Vangelis was busy). “On the Edge” is a runner’s running movie – and because of that authenticity, I’m going to use it to highlight a few training tips I noticed in it that we can all take to heart as we get ready for Hospital Hill!
1. Quit your job and move to some Spartan digs right next to the race course. Kidding! But it’s a good intro to what the movie is about. Dern plays Wes Holman, a 43-year-old (hey, that’s my age!) runner who lost his amateur status decades ago while trying to organize fellow athletes just prior to the U.S. Olympic trials. We meet him as he is scouting his comeback to run the “Cielo Sea Race” – a handicapped trail race which is not-so-loosely based on “The Dipsea Race” – a Northern California event billed as the oldest trail race in America. Not-so-coincidental fact: Dern finished 293rd in the race in 1974 and said he’d never do it again because it was “too dangerous.” The race features a staggered start intended to give runners of all ages and genders the chance to cross the finish line first. Anyhow, Wes moves into an abandoned barge on the docks that floods with the tide. He devotes himself entirely to his training.
2. Know your race course. The real tips begin. Wes returns to the site of this local race 1 year before he intends to race it. He scouts the course, taking notes as the race is going on. We meet him as he watches the lead runner come up “Cardiac Hill.” Wes trains on the course – I think this is really helpful, after all you don’t know if you can make it up the Broadway Hill until you’ve done it! If you train on the terrain you’ll be running on, you’ll be prepared.
3. Follow a training plan. Wes has a plan: he charts his every single run on a poster-board – type of workout, times, etc. That’s Dern – apparently he’s compulsive. You don’t know any runners like that, do you? The takeaway from this tip is that a training plan can help you put in the mileage you’ll need to prepare as well as building speed and endurance with different types of workouts.
4. Incorporate some variety. Wes does different things – he doesn’t just run. He runs up a hill holding a rock over his head (less common cross-training) and does a lot of push ups and sit-ups (more common). I’m not doing any rock-carrying just now, but I do some core strength training almost every day, and more of it on running “off” days.
5. Have the right shoes. Wes is particular about his shoes – he knows what he wants and he special orders it. I am particular too! I run in Skora performance running shoes – designed by runners for runners.
6. Diet. Wes eats. You should too. I can’t recall anything specific about Wes’ diet – he does share a family style meal at his father’s house. My advice is be discriminating about what you put into your body. When I was younger I felt like my body was a furnace that would burn whatever garbage I put into it. The last 5 years or so I’ve really started paying more attention to how my body reacts to different types of food. I like to experiment. And I don’t mean one run on Twinkies, the next on Ho-hos. I’ve been fueling and hydrating with Skratch Labs’ hot Apples & Cinnamon exercise hydration mix lately. I drink about 16 oz. pre-run – it’s nice to raise my core temp instead of lowering it before heading out into the cold. Hopefully I’ll be switching over to the traditional cold sports drink soon! C’mon spring, stick around.
7. Get a coach. Wes reunites with his old coach and – lesson time again – has a hard time submitting to his advice and methods, but ultimately leans on his wisdom. Wes takes to heart a mantra his coach gives him: “soar” the uphills, “burn” the downs. There are lots of ways to find a coach – and it doesn’t have to be one-on-one in person, although it can be. There are coaches in our area who will combine group workouts and individual advice. A coach can also motivate you and advise you remotely (e.g. my Skora friend Kyle Kranz: http://kylekranz.com/). You can self-coach or join a running club, but to really do it right you’ve got to be willing to read a lot and engage in honest self-assessment.
8. Don’t try to push through injuries. Wes uses active recovery – soaking in a tub for instance – to cope with the day-to-day wear and tear of training. He suffers a minor injury during his training and rests it for a few days rather than aggravating it. There’s no one-size-fits-all advice for injuries, but it if hurts – back off. If it still hurts, see a professional.
9. Be motivated by competition. Even in training, Wes has his eye on some competitors in the race – including a frenemy from his past. We can all take some inspiration from the cliché “when you’re not training, someone else is.” I’m not encouraging overtraining, but even if you’re just competing against yourself, a competitive mindset can get you out of bed for one of those pre-dawn sessions we all hate. Maybe it’s just taking inspiration from the elites we see maximizing their potential. There are some true elites in cameo roles in “On the Edge.”
10. Embrace your goal. This is the toughest one to relate to the movie. It seems clear Wes’ goal is to win the Cielo Sea Race – or is it? Perhaps it’s personal redemption. I don’t want to ruin the ending for you! You have to know what your goal is to achieve it. Set one. Finish? Run the whole race? Set a PR? Set a goal and work towards it as you train. There will be sacrifice. The reward or disappointment you reap on race day will directly relate to what you sow in training.
Get out there and “Soar!”
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I should probably watch more running movies…
The whole coaching thing is a trick. I self-coach for the most part with free input from others, but learning when you’re lying to yourself (for good or bad) can be tricky no matter your experience.