An unabashed though conventional celebration of human desire and willpower, “Spirit of the Marathon” develops into a surprisingly moving and substantive consideration of the 26-mile-plus running sport and how it plays out for six participants in the 2005 Chicago Marathon. Pic’s concern for the mental as well as physical preparation for the run by elites and amateurs contains an inspiring spark, enough to nab aud awards (as in the Chicago fest) and ancillary interest.
Director Jon Dunham fluidly folds a mini-history of the marathon inside his multicharacter portrait of a widely diverse sextet: From Olympian Deena Kastor and world-class Kenyan runner Daniel Njenga (seen living and training in Japan and speaking Japanese) to first-timers Leah Caille and Lori O’Connor. Longtime Chicagoan Jerry Meyers holds the banner for the senior set, while running vet Ryan Bradley is temporarily thwarted in his goal to get a fast-enough time in the Chicago race to qualify for the vaunted Boston Marathon. Quality time is spent with each participant, so by the race’s launch, suspense (for Kastor and Njenga) and rooting interest (for Meyers, Caille and O’Connor) boost this well-lensed pic.