Best Running Documentaries in 2021

Natalie Cecconi
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Many running documentaries focus on elite runners, so they can be a bit unrealistic. The ExtraMile is a documentary that follows Krissy Moehl, a professional female marathoner. The documentary focuses on her training for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Krissy has a lot of tips for running and training. This is one of the best running documentaries about the marathon because it does not focus on elite runners. Krissy’s account demonstrates the struggles and challenges shared by all marathon runners. This is the best running documentary for beginners and for those who want to complete a marathon.

NameCategoryProduct
Skid Row MarathonBest OverallSkid Row Marathon
Run For Your LifeBudget PickRun For Your Life
BostonUpgrade PickBoston

1. Skid Row Marathon

Our rating: 9 / 10

Skid Row Marathon

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This movie tells the story of six people running through the streets of Los Angeles in hopes of winning the Skid Row Marathon. Why? Because it’s the easiest way to win some prize money. They run alongside hundreds of people who have fallen through the cracks. These people live on the streets and depend on a meal offered by a church or other charity.

What’s refreshing about Skid Row Marathon is that it doesn’t try to hide the harsh realities of being homeless and tries to capture a different perspective of life with some of the most underprivileged people in America.

Some of the people in the movie are condescending and shameless. However, there are some diamonds in the rough. The movie also reveals the dedication of social workers and volunteers who devote so much of their time to making life a little less miserable for some of the most downtrodden people in the country.

2. The Human Race

Our rating: 9 / 10

The Human Race

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Pros:

  • If you can’t switch off your brain at night, this is an incredible film for you
  • An inspiring story that shows the power of perseverance
  • It’s an interesting story about a 3-time cancer survivor
  • Well-produced and shot (shot in 4K)
  • You’ll probably learn a bit about running ….

Cons:

  • It’s in the country code format: (JAP, ITA, USA)
  • If you’re uninitiated to long distance marathon running, this film may ‘feel’ slow

A Film by Jon Dunham.

The Human Race is a well-produced documentary that follows the journey of a three-time cancer survivor named, John Bingham, who pushes himself to the extreme limits of his capabilities. His running style is incredibly unique – he’s probably the only runner in the world who has a pace in the slow range but still maintains a 2:23 marathon time.

3. The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young

Our rating: 7 / 10

The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young

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Great documentaries about running races are getting better and better. Our current favorite is the recently-released Barkley Marathons documentary.

Taking place in the lush, mountainous region of Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee, the Barkley Marathons is a 104-mile running competition that takes place in a vast, unmarked wilderness. This documentary follows the preparation of a group of six elite ultra-marathon runners as they train to complete the incredible race.

The Barkley Marathons is so difficult that only 15% of the runners who try it ever complete it. Those who complete it can only do so by completing all five “courses” in a single attempt.

4. Skid Row Marathon

Our rating: 7 / 10

Skid Row Marathon

Check Price on Amazon

This movie tells the story of six people running through the streets of Los Angeles in hopes of winning the Skid Row Marathon. Why? Because it’s the easiest way to win some prize money. They run alongside hundreds of people who have fallen through the cracks. These people live on the streets and depend on a meal offered by a church or other charity.

What’s refreshing about Skid Row Marathon is that it doesn’t try to hide the harsh realities of being homeless and tries to capture a different perspective of life with some of the most underprivileged people in America.

Some of the people in the movie are condescending and shameless. However, there are some diamonds in the rough. The movie also reveals the dedication of social workers and volunteers who devote so much of their time to making life a little less miserable for some of the most downtrodden people in the country.

5. Run for Your Life

Our rating: 7 / 10

Run for Your Life

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Pros:

  • Well-made
  • Immerses viewers in the experience
  • Highlights the challenges of running in the Sahara Desert
  • Features high-quality CGI and a great soundtrack

Run for Your Life is a documentary about ultra-marathon running. It begins with the history of ultra-running and follows it with a complete account of a man named Moustafa who is on his way to run in China’s Gobi Desert Race. This is a grueling 400+ mile race and is one of the toughest in history.

This documentary deeply explores the motivations and rules that surround the world of ultra-running and brings viewers along for the ride. This includes interviews with runners moments before they start the race and shows in depth reconstructions of the race action.

While the documentary does a great job of explaining the techniques that runners can use to improve their performance as they push to the maximum, it is rather heavy-handed when it comes to the philosophical implications of running.

6. Running for Good

Our rating: 7 / 10

Running for Good

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The film’s story is straightforward: it’s about a group of friends and colleagues from Portland, who meet a couple from Rwanda. The latter turn out to be the lead singer and guitarist of a Rwandan band, whose members had been killed during the genocide 12 years earlier. They were on tour in America, and it was during this trip that they met each other. As the two families get to know one another, and as they bond and the musicians fall in love with a local couple. Shelley (Rwandese) and Steve (Steve) and Carol (Carol). A group of friends decided to organize a race to bring the surviving members of the band back home.

The race takes place in Oregon, and the goal is to get to the top of Mt. Hood by foot. All of this is accompanied by an absolutely amazing soundtrack. This is actually the most effective part of the entire movie. Once again, it’s a rock band, and their music gives the expectedly appropriate beats to the dialogues, the selected footage and the action scenes.

The film has won dozens of awards and has been screened at the Sundance, Toronto and many other prestigious film festivals. It was even nominated for an Emmy award as Best Documentary in 2012.

7. The Human Race

Our rating: 7 / 10

The Human Race

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Pros:

  • If you can’t switch off your brain at night, this is an incredible film for you
  • An inspiring story that shows the power of perseverance
  • It’s an interesting story about a 3-time cancer survivor
  • Well-produced and shot (shot in 4K)
  • You’ll probably learn a bit about running ….

Cons:

  • It’s in the country code format: (JAP, ITA, USA)
  • If you’re uninitiated to long distance marathon running, this film may ‘feel’ slow

A Film by Jon Dunham.

The Human Race is a well-produced documentary that follows the journey of a three-time cancer survivor named, John Bingham, who pushes himself to the extreme limits of his capabilities. His running style is incredibly unique – he’s probably the only runner in the world who has a pace in the slow range but still maintains a 2:23 marathon time.

8. Boston

Our rating: 7 / 10

Boston

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Pros:

  • Captures the struggle of the marathon bombing
  • Excellent production

A Documentary Film

If you are not a runner and don’t follow this sport much, then you might not know about the tragedy that took place at the Boston Marathon bombings. For those of you who don’t know, two bombs exploded in the Marathon route in 2013. Happened exactly two years after the tragedy in Newtown, it was an terror attack that shook the whole nation. The Boston Marathon bombings changed the world forever.

The documentary Boston: a documentary film did an excellent job covering all the events that unfolded during the tragedy. It also followed the people who were affected by the bombs. You have to see it to believe it. Take a look at the trailer and see it for yourself.

9. Spirit of the Marathon

Our rating: 7 / 10

Spirit of the Marathon

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Pros:

  • Great for inspiration
  • In-depth, real-world perspective
  • Breathtaking cinematography
  • Deeply personal stories

Spirit of the Marathon is a running documentary by the Olympian and producer T.J. English. This documentary follows a handful of runners, their lives, and their races. From high school track star Jeptoo to an ultra-marathoner.

Through the experiences of these very colorful characters, we are able to see the ups, downs, and faces of this adrenaline-fueled sport. The screening rooms, the hotels, the streets, and the racecourses. This documentary provides a very accessible and intimate viewpoint of this incredible activity.

We go, there to places, such as a high school in the Bronx, a ranch in Mexico, and a small town carnival to see the efforts and struggles first hand. This documentary covers the drama and inspiration of a diverse cross-section of a group of people who actually have their lives changed by running.

10. Spirit of the Marathon

Our rating: 7 / 10

Spirit of the Marathon

Check Price on Amazon

Pros:

  • Great for inspiration
  • In-depth, real-world perspective
  • Breathtaking cinematography
  • Deeply personal stories

Spirit of the Marathon is a running documentary by the Olympian and producer T.J. English. This documentary follows a handful of runners, their lives, and their races. From high school track star Jeptoo to an ultra-marathoner.

Through the experiences of these very colorful characters, we are able to see the ups, downs, and faces of this adrenaline-fueled sport. The screening rooms, the hotels, the streets, and the racecourses. This documentary provides a very accessible and intimate viewpoint of this incredible activity.

We go, there to places, such as a high school in the Bronx, a ranch in Mexico, and a small town carnival to see the efforts and struggles first hand. This documentary covers the drama and inspiration of a diverse cross-section of a group of people who actually have their lives changed by running.

11. Once Is Enough

Our rating: 6 / 10

Once Is Enough

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You might think that running a mile in under 4 minutes is unattainable. But in 2012, four men and women, ranging from high school to a grandmother, broke the four-minute mark, raising the seemingly unbreakable bar once again.

This documentary follows those four athletes as well as the four-minute mile from its genesis in the late 19th century to the current age of speed. No other race has captured the hearts and minds of runners and non-runners alike more than the historic quest to break the four-minute mile.

Through archival footage and first-person accounts, this film tells the fascinating story of the world’s fascination with one particular running record. The documentary also offers a look into the four high achievers who beat the so-called ‘unbreakable’ mark.

12. Boston

Our rating: 6 / 10

Boston

Check Price on Amazon

Pros:

  • Captures the struggle of the marathon bombing
  • Excellent production

A Documentary Film

If you are not a runner and don’t follow this sport much, then you might not know about the tragedy that took place at the Boston Marathon bombings. For those of you who don’t know, two bombs exploded in the Marathon route in 2013. Happened exactly two years after the tragedy in Newtown, it was an terror attack that shook the whole nation. The Boston Marathon bombings changed the world forever.

The documentary Boston: a documentary film did an excellent job covering all the events that unfolded during the tragedy. It also followed the people who were affected by the bombs. You have to see it to believe it. Take a look at the trailer and see it for yourself.

13. Spirit of the Marathon II

Our rating: 6 / 10

Spirit of the Marathon II

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Pros:

  • Five years later, it is still incredibly enjoyable
  • An emotional, dramatic and exciting movie
  • Director Scott Hicks focuses on the actual marathon, and the people who run them
  • A tough goal to achieve for anyone

Cons:

  • It is a little short at around 70 minutes
  • There was some criticism about its predecessor

This is one of my favorite running movies of all time. Spirit of the Marathon II is a documentary about some of the greatest marathon runners in the world. It is incredibly powerful, emotional and inspirational.

The movie is centered around the runners who are about to run the Boston Marathon. The audience really gets a behind the scenes look at what the competitors go through to prepare – physically, mentally and emotionally to run the marathon.

There is a lot of footage of the actual marathon, which is the most exciting part of the movie as there is a lot of nail biting action.

14. Spirit of the Marathon II

Our rating: 6 / 10

Spirit of the Marathon II

Check Price on Amazon

Pros:

  • Five years later, it is still incredibly enjoyable
  • An emotional, dramatic and exciting movie
  • Director Scott Hicks focuses on the actual marathon, and the people who run them
  • A tough goal to achieve for anyone

Cons:

  • It is a little short at around 70 minutes
  • There was some criticism about its predecessor

This is one of my favorite running movies of all time. Spirit of the Marathon II is a documentary about some of the greatest marathon runners in the world. It is incredibly powerful, emotional and inspirational.

The movie is centered around the runners who are about to run the Boston Marathon. The audience really gets a behind the scenes look at what the competitors go through to prepare – physically, mentally and emotionally to run the marathon.

There is a lot of footage of the actual marathon, which is the most exciting part of the movie as there is a lot of nail biting action.

15. 3100: Run and Become

Our rating: 6 / 10

3100: Run and Become

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Pros:

  • A documentary on the running culture and tradition of Kenya
  • Takes you through the journey of 3 different very different runners
  • The narrative takes you into the life of these Kenyans
  • Extremely inspirational

Cons:

  • Only focuses on a very specific part of the running culture
  • Because of its focus on a very specific part of the running culture, it might fail to appeal to other audiences
  • The filmmaker is a little too much in love with his subjects

One of the major running documentaries to be released is the 3100: Run and Become. It is a documentary directed by Morio Asaka who was also the director of the 2008 film ‘Oscar & Felix: A True Story of Two Friends, a Cave and a Running Streak’. The documentary is a low-fi and high-intensity work of art. It takes you into the life of three extremely different runners from Kenya. It also takes you through the life of John Mwangangi, Eliud Kipchoge and Wilson Kipsang, three of the most successful runners hailing from and trained in Kenya.

16. Run For Your Life

Our rating: 5 / 10

Run For Your Life

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The Life and Times of Danny – The Irish Drifter— Ward.

An ideal documentary for anyone who wants to get an inside perspective on the mind of world-class athletes. It is a rare and candid look at the life of fallen hero Danny Ward – the Irish drifter who’d give anything to have his legs back.

This is not your typical documentary. This is the real life story of a man. A man who has fought his way back to life. It tells of his arrival in the United States, a land he’d always dreamed of conquering.

17. Breaking2

Our rating: 5 / 10

Breaking2

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This documentary follows athletes Eliud Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa, and Zersenay Tadese through their training and their attempts to break the 2:00:00 barrier in the Marathon. The film is directed by Brett Ratner and was produced by James Chudnow.

You can watch the full documentary on YouTube by following the link above. It premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival and was later broadcast as a two-part special on the Discovery channel.

The film focuses on the Nike-sponsored Breaking2 project and illustrates the pain, doubt and the incredible amounts of hard work that went into this project.

Conclusion

Running in general is often a good workout. But there are some people who may be looking for a documentary film that focuses on the more extreme elements of running. There are a few good films out there. Let’s take a look at a few of them and let you know what you get from each one.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Skid Row MarathonBest OverallSkid Row Marathon
Run For Your LifeBudget PickRun For Your Life
BostonUpgrade PickBoston