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movie review: Run for Your Life
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Dan
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2008 11:11 pm    Post subject: movie review: Run for Your Life Reply with quote

I received a screener copy of Run for Your Life to review. It is the story of Fred Lebow, founder of the NY City Marathon. But at its essence, it is an exploration into why running is such a central part of the lives it touches.

The story of how one immigrant's determination and sweat created the most significant running event in the world. Run for Your Life touches the heart and soul of anyone who has a passion for running, and documents the inspirational life of Fred Lebow and the history of the New York City Marathon.

The story begins with an interesting Then & Now comparison. Sure, we've heard all about how great the runners of the 60's and 70's were, but running in the 60's did not have the recreational base or the social aspect it does now. Instead, the sport was a collection of hard core runners that were understood by few. Enter one Romanian-born fast talker with a vision for something greater, and an opening soundtrack that would do a Spike Lee Joint proud!

"Everything could be solved if you would only run."

Lebow brought to the table an ability to organize otherwise disinterested parties, often conning people into believing they were part of something bigger. In the end, he tricked enough people that they actually were part of something bigger, in a "the ends justify the means" sort of way. His background was in the fashion industry, and that blossomed into ideas such as the Crazy Legs mini-marathon (i.e. mini skirts) for women, complete with Playboy bunnies as promotion -- quite the novelty at the time. Women hadn't been encouraged to run previously, and that kept the sport's overall participation rather low.

Lebow started up the NY Marathon in '69 as four loops around Central Park. The event quickly outgrew the park's limitations (too much pedestrian traffic, too hilly, too narrow, no press or spectators, etc.) and George Spitz won over the skeptics along with Lebow's initiative to make it a 5-boroughs race in '76, basing it on the Boston Marathon's success running through the streets.

At this point, we come to a history lesson that may be unknown to many younger viewers. Mid-70's NYC was on the brink of collapse, according to some. Lebow's marathon was able to create a sense of unity and pride within each borough and throughout the entire city. It didn't hurt that he managed to bring in Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers -- both Olympians that same year -- for the inaugural 5-boroughs race. Suddenly, his promise of a BIG event came to fruition, and the media took notice.

2,000 runners participated that first year of the 5-boroughs setup, 5,000 the next, and it kept growing exponentially. (A mere 279 women took place in '77, which was 3 times as many as the year before.) Bill Rodgers won that first 5-boroughs race, running it largely as redemption for a bad Olympics showing in '76... He also won in '77 through '79, cementing his reputation as one of the greats in the sport.

In '78, Grete Waitz set the marathon world record at NY, running her first ever road race and first ever run longer than 11 or 12 miles. So new was she to the road running scene, no one even knew who she was at the finish. She would go on to win 9 out of her 11 NY Marathon attempts between '78 and '88. In '80, another world record would be set by yet another relative unknown, Alberto Salazar.

As the NY Marathon grew, so too did the NY Road Runners Club with Lebow at the helm. By '78, the NYRRC was holding weekly races, many of them themed events. The NY Marathon pushed the running boom global and kicked off the major urban marathon trend which now dominates the road running landscape. It also led to professionalism of the sport. Prize money for the athletes meant the parks dept, police/security, etc. needed to be paid... In '84, the event had to match dollar for dollar any prize money to the city.

Lebow was a notoriously slow runner, but it was like a religion to him. Those of us blessed with less talent than others we have trained with can certainly appreciate. For years, he put everything he earned into the marathon and the running club. He was known for rocking the boat, but his vision was strong enough that it seemed to unify people regardless of how he got to a given point.

In early '90, Lebow was diagnosed with brain cancer and given only a few months to live. In '92, he announced that he would run the NY Marathon for the first time, having organized it for so many years. In a very poignant scene, he is accompanied by none other than Grete Waitz throughout the race, cheered on by thousands of supportive fans. Lebow passed away October 9th, 1994.

Today, the NY Marathon boasts over 38,000 participants and more than 100,000 applicants. The 2 million spectators makes it the biggest such event anywhere.

In the end, I'm unsure whether I truly like Fred Lebow the person, but I certainly appreciate what he attempted to create. As a coach and former athlete (so I'd like to think), I recognize that burning drive to always do better, despite how trivial the pastime may occasionally seem.

Running time: 92 min.

Movie trailer: link

Run for Your Life will be showing from October 29th through November 6th at the Village East Cinema in New York (181 2nd Ave, 212-529-6799).
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Angelo Z
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 3:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

From your first few sentences talking about running tying to individuals, I think I may know why from my personal experience. It is the ultimate between body and mind-not like gymnastics. Here you try to overcome a barrier. It also is more natural as opposed to training inside. It's priceless, easy, and not so risky. I found that running is like ecstasy (from what I've read)-deep ties and feelings occur while running. I think the term is called "runner's high." The mind, nature, and running are just all tangent between eachother. The next sport would be swimming. Repetitive sports seem to have their own affect.
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Dan
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

They talk frequently in the film about the intrinsic challenge of the sport, the purity of the marathon, and not understanding why someone would want to cheat themselves of the true experience.

Dan
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 7:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

SOunds like something I should take a look at for sure...
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Dan
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 11:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good to see you, it's been a while!

Dan
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 7:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks - yeah its been a while I just got a PM from Eliza and was thinking heye its been a long time since I was on. Unfortunately I had a bunch of issues. I was working for Lehman Brothers (enough said right) things worked out fine but after the acquisition it was insane then I got let go and finding a new job was rough but I had a few places and it just took a little while...

Anyway running was OK I will add some more around that but I had some time off and even got in a 74 mile week in the midst of it my biggest one ever...
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Dan
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 9:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ooh, I can see that being a turbulent setting. Glad to hear things turned out okay.

Dan
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 1:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

its all good and I look forward to Boston #4 in April as a Masters runner this year
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 09, 2009 9:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It was a circular path, the same that the greatest navy admiral of the ancient Greece did follow -- he decieved the Athenians into believing that a minor power was about to attack them and ended--up having to use every trick in the book to delay advance of the Persian fleet.
Mr. Lebow put pressure on him self to succeed.
He took a credit of trust that he initially did not deserve, but he repaid it in full!
The bottom line is: his intentions were good!
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Paul
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 01, 2009 9:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good write up, Dan. I saw it on DVD. The running clothing from 30-40 years ago was funny, too. I totally agree with your last paragraph. There is a DVD out on the Chicago marathon that is very good, too.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2009 8:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey paul - welcome back... hope all is well with you!
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Paul
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2009 8:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey, AM, thanks!
2007 was a disaster! Hurt my knee in April and missed the entire Spring and Summer. Studied up on every alternative therapy around. Ended up buying my own ultrasound device and an Infratonic 8000 from Sound Vitality Shocked . Was on my comeback (I'm 2nd only to Dan on number of comebacks Rolling Eyes ) when I tore up my Plantar in December on a Track workout. Another month off and then slow jogging for 200m and walk 100m for the next month. Entered Shamrock 5K in March which was the longest unbroken run for me in 6 months. 25:43 Embarassed
From there it was a steady climb up, as far as fitness. 12K in May (1:00:35), 10K in June (47:10), very flat 5K in Aug (20:54), 10K in Sept (43:11), and culminating in a 5K in Oct (20:04). I didn't know if I would ever get to the point of breaking 7 in a 10K, or 6:30 in a 5K, pace wise, again.
New age group this year: 60 Confused .
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 5:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Awesome glad to hear you are on the comeback trail and hopefully we see you more often here...

I get a new age group as well this year - 40 - and I am so excited about it the team I run with has a great group of Masters runners so it should be a lot of fun.\!
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Dan
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks like we're all on 5 year increments... I just hit 35. That's the beginning Master's bracket isn't it, or did it move down to 30?

Dan
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 7:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

From what I understand 35 is the international age for Masters... the US it is still 40 although just about all Masters competitions have a "sub masters" or open 35 - 40 component to them...

I believe that the date the US trues up its masters to the international level is January 2011... So at least I get a few years before you whippersnappers get in...

Laughing
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