Motion Pictures

From Chariots of Fire to Rocky, cinema has produced many memorable running scenes. runABC’s Neil Turner looks at how these scenes have inspired running events, tours and challenges around the world from Hollywood to Holyrood...

For anyone who’s been heckled on a run, there’s a strong chance you’ll have had the words, ‘Run, Forrest, run!’ bellowed at you. The line, immortalised in the 1994 film Forrest Gump starring Tom Hanks, is the default jibe for witless passersby attempting to be funny.

Run Forrest Run

‘Run, Forrest, run’ has become synonymous with running thanks to its protagonist’s talent for the activity, which sees him running across the USA. Though some find it irritating to hear, others have embraced it. In the latter camp are Cross Country Missions, organisers of The Forrest Gump Challenge in Missouri. The event sees the film played on a big screen in a church while participants tackle one, four, eight or ten 5k loops of the course (i.e. a 5k, half marathon, marathon or 50k). The event also features Forrest Gump face cut-outs, and a Forrest Gump bench, with finishers receiving a custom designed Forrest Gump-themed medal. For those who find the commute to the US a bit of a trek (even Forrest himself probably would), there’s a virtual race option. All participants will receive a Forrest Gump-themed medal. As well as an event, the film has inspired some Forrest wannabes. Ultra runner Sean Conway was dubbed ‘the British Forrest Gump’ after traversing the length of Britain. His hirsute appearance may also have had something to do with this nickname...

And this isn’t the only movie-inspired running event Stateside...

Rocky Road

If you’re anything like me, when you run up a set of stairs you’re tempted to start air boxing then raising your arms aloft in tribute to Sylvester Stallone’s memorable training scenes from the Rocky franchise. Perhaps the most famous of these is in Rocky II when Sly runs up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, soundtracked by Bill Conti’s ‘Gonna Fly Now’. Though the scene is meant to be symbolic of Rocky’s efforts rather than taken literally, Philadelphia writer Dan McQuade did just that. He published an article detailing the length of Rocky’s route and it worked out at a staggering 50k! Following on from this discovery, a group of ultra runners organised the first ever Rocky Fat Ass Run - following this very route. Since then the official Rocky Balboa Run has been launched, also in Philadelphia, with competitors dressing up as the film’s protagonist. The official race is a little less strenuous than Rocky’s original run – featuring a 10-mile and 5k option. Or you can combine the two races as part of the ‘Italian Stallion Challenge’.

To Beach Their Own

Back in the UK we also have a rich tradition of running in films. Perhaps the best-known running scene in British cinema is from 1981’s Chariots of Fire. The sequence of Ben Cross and Ian Charleson running barefoot on West Sands Beach in St Andrews, soundtracked to Vangelis’ score has become etched in our collective psyche. The film tells the true story of runners Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell and their involvement in the 1924 Paris Olympics. Each year, running club Fife AC hosts a 5k on the beach, which despite being in Scotland was used to portray Broadstairs in Kent. The race has become known as the Chariots of Fire 5K and sees many runners donning the white running kits worn by the film’s stars


Also in Scotland, those wishing to emulate Ewan McGregor’s sprint down Edinburgh’s Princes Street (minus the shoplifting) in the black comedy Trainspotting, can now do so thanks to Edinburgh Running Tours. The Trainspotting Tour takes in sights from the 1996 cult classic and its sequel T2, inviting runners to emulate the film’s characters who we all know and love (well maybe not Begbie): Organisers say: “Follow in the footsteps of Renton, Sick Boy and Spud, running through iconic scenery from both the original Trainspotting film and the more recent T2.

Fancy recreating the run down Princes Street? Done. “Doing our best to avoid Begbie, join us on a jog through the city, exploring the grimy, secret areas from the different ages of Edinburgh’s history, finding out about the characters that influenced the mood of the population and gave rise to the inspiration behind Trainspotting.”

We predict there’ll be many more movie-themed running events popping up in the near future, with films like Run, Lola, Run, and Run, Fatboy Run ideal inspiration. Watch this space or, rather, watch these movies...

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