What better way to get inspired than to put up your weary running legs and put on one of the best running documentaries.
In this article, you will find a hand-picked list of the 14 best running documentaries compiled by a self-proclaimed running documentary aficionado.
Let’s jump in!
1. A Mile an Hour: Running a different kind of marathon- Beau Miles
A Mile an Hour is the brainchild of runner, videographer, writer, director, and philosopher (in my opinion), Beau Miles.
In this 17 minute award-winning documentary, Miles tells the story of an unconventional marathon. One where he runs, much like the title suggests- a mile an hour.
In between each one-mile lap of his block, Miles works as much as possible on odd jobs; making things, fixing stuff.
It is a documentary not just about running, but about the potential of each new day.
2. Where Dreams Go To Die
The harrowing title of this documentary alludes to the madness of what is possibly the most mental race on earth- The Barkley Marathons.
Where Deams Go To Die follows Canadian ultrarunner Gary Robbins through his two attempts at finishing the Barkley Marathons, a disorganised (by design) 100 mile (or more) event with the elevation gain equivalent to climbing Mount Everest twice!This doc follows Robbins’ two-year journey. It is emotional, grueling, and heart-poundingly inspirational.
It tells the tale of an obsession, a running addiction, what it takes to dream of the impossible, and the sacrifices and demons that go along with it.
Watch this and find out for yourself why The Barkleys are where dreams go to die.
3. Breaking 2
This is one of National Geographic’s best running documentaries.
It documents the six-month period of scientifically advanced training undertaken by three of the world’s most elite distance runners; Eliud Kipchoge, Zersenay Tadese, and Lelisa Desisa, as they set out to break the two-hour marathon barrier.
The documentary follows these three pioneers on their global endeavor to defy the unthinkable and break 2. From highly scientific testing in wind tunnels and running labs in the United States to juggling their demanding training load with their daily lives back home, and finally, the heart-in-mouth race in Italy.
If you’re interested in the science behind what the body endures while running, this documentary is worth a watch.
And if you’re not sciencey, it’s also worth a watch. It’s running history!
4. 15 Hours | with Amelia Boone
Even though this documentary is under ten minutes long, it still definitely deserves a spot on this list.
The film follows a day in the life of world-class obstacle course athlete and ultrarunner, Amelia Boone, as she navigates her reintegration to the sport of ultrarunning after suffering a stress fracture in her femur in 2016.
Amelia Boone’s attitude towards overcoming hardships is inspiring.
Director, Billy Yang’s cinematography is spot on.
He really is one of the greatest when it comes to the best running documentaries. He elegantly captures Boone’s spirit and drive, as well as the beauty and struggle of the sport.
5. How To Run 100 Miles
Although the title of this mini-doc makes it seem like it would be a step-by-step 100 mile tutorial, at its core it is a touchingly personal and heartwarming account of a friendship.
A central theme to this documentary is the magic that comes when you push at your own limits, work hard, and believe in yourself.
The documentary follows two guys as they train for their first 100-mile race, as they put in the work and execute 50-70 mile weeks.
6. The Human Race
This life-affirming movie follows six runners as they train for their big race.
The big twist? The runner’s ages range from 55 to 85!
Throughout her life, she has continued to defy expectations. In this documentary she gets to the crux of what its story is all about with the line;
“The more you do, the more you can do.”
Whatever your age, this documentary will inspire you to nurture your inner child, and to get out there and run!
7. my addiction
One of the shortest but one of the best running documentaries on this list.
YouTube sensation Casey Neistat has put together what is more of an inspirational visual collage than a full-blown documentary.
If you’re looking to get pumped, this snippet of a doc is sure to get you rearing and ready for your run.
Phrases such as ‘Don’t run because you have to, run because you can’, should give you an idea of what this running documentary is all about.
RUNNER is the life story of South Sudanese marathon runner Guor Mading Maker.
Maker’s story is unimaginable. Running quite literally saved his life, when he ran to Egypt, away from his captors in Sudan.
He then ran all the way to Marathon greatness.
The documentary weaves interviews and news reports on the devastating Sudanese war and famine, with running footage from Maker’s days as a high school runner, to his debut appearance and the London Olympic Marathon and the Rio Olympics.
9. Finding Traction
This documentary follows ultrarunning legend, Nikki Kimball, as she attempts to beat the record for the Long Trail, a 273 mile (440 km) extremely technical and steep trail through Vermont, US.
The trait itself covers over twice the elevation gain of Mount Everest and is essentially 10 entire marathons in a row?!
The film intimately shows Kimball as she pushes her own limits to the extreme. It’s a wild watch if you want to witness what the human body is physically capable of if the mind lets it.
Kimball is a powerhouse, and what she does is beyond comprehension. But watching someone push themselves to the extreme can inspire us to dream bigger for ourselves.
10. Skid Row Marathon
This running documentary spotlights a group of recovering addicts and paroled convicts as they discover a new, healthier addiction together- running.
The running group is bourne out of Los Angeles’ homeless district, Skid Row, and led by Craig Mitchell. Mitchell is a fiercely principled LA-based prosecutor turned judge who, over the course of his career, sent many an offender to prison.
The documentary is about the transformative power of running and coming together for the community. One of the runners states; “Running gave me my fight back.”
11. Jessica’s ParkRun Heroes
Olympic legend Jessica Ennis-Hill presents this 10 part series of a collection of powerful and moving personal stories of Parkrunners.
Parkrun is a global phenomenon of a collection of over 2000 5-kilometre events. Participants can run, walk, jog, or anything in between, and the event has become a pillar of many communities.
This series follows a different runner for each episode. Each and every runner has an inspiring and unique story, and they each share how they have used running to help them push through difficult times in their lives.
These mini running documentaries show how the ordinary can often be extraordinary.
12. The Lion and the Gazelle
This mini, mini running documentary is more of a burst of inspiration than a story.
It reminds us of the raw, primal nature of running, how it allows us to be introspective, and its ability to have us connect with ourselves.
With stunning visuals and poetic narration, this is one to keep coming back to if you’re lacking motivation, toying with the idea of trail running, or in search of a ‘why’.
13. Kilian Jornet: Path to EveresT
This awesome running documentary tells the story of how Kilian Jornet, one of the world’s greatest ultra athletes, ascended Mount Everest twice in one week, alone and with no oxygen in May 2017.
Path to Everest lets us peek into the mind of the incredible athlete.
Through the documentary’s personal first-hand footage, we get to see Kilian, the king of the ultra, face his fears, overcome challenges, and come out on top.
Ok, this one isn’t technically one of the best running documentaries as it is not specifically to do with running, but the sporting world in general.
It follows the journey of an investigative journalist and amateur cyclist, Bryan Fogel, who set out to explore some minor blood doping offenses in an amateur cycling competition and ended up stumbling upon an absolute gold mine when he was launched headfirst into the heart of Russia’s state-sponsored doping programme.
This one is definitely a must-watch for anyone who’s a sucker for a scandal or is interested in the world of elite sport.
And if you don’t watch it for the sport, or the science, or even the politics, watch Icarus for Grigory Rodchenkov; the eccentric mastermind and kingpin behind Russia’s blood doping scandal turned whistleblower. He is fascinatingly hilarious.
Looking for more inspiration?
Check out these 20 Running Motivational Quotes to get you ready to hit the ground running!