The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Running America

I had two reactions to the men shown in the documentary Running America. The first reaction was, “These guys are crazy!” The second was admiration. In 2008, Charlie Engle and Marshall Ulrich did something I couldn't even have fathomed before seeing this film: they attempted to break a world record by running across the country, from San Francisco to New York. That's over 3,000 miles. To accomplish it, they had to average almost 70 miles per day. On one hand, it seems like a foolish thing to do, yet by the end of the film, you walk away with hardcore respect for the way these two dared to push their own limits.

Engle and Ulrich are both “ultra-runners,” used to going much longer distances than even seasoned runners. This feat took their skills to a new level. Running America shows us what happened in satisfying detail. The men face obstacles, such as injuries and deteriorating bodies, inclement weather, and exhaustion. They discuss the personal demons that drive them to attempt such a brutal activity. As they hit both mental and physical walls, the cameras are there to record how they push themselves to continue. It is completely, utterly fascinating. The details of the task are astonishing, too. Succeeding means running 18 hours per day, doing the equivalent of multiple marathons. Can you imagine that? I wouldn't have lasted five miles before quitting. The stamina Charlie and Marshall have is awe-inspiring.

The film, directed by Kevin Kerwin, also draws a parallel between its subjects and the country itself. Their run took place during the period in 2008 when the economy hit the skids. Average American citizens are interviewed about the financial crisis and how it affects their view of the United States. While that may sound unnecessary, it actually adds an intriguing dimension to the movie. Running America never gets political; it's more interested in exploring the theme of perseverance. Both the runners and the American people had to keep going in the face of extreme hardships.

I found myself riveted by Running America. It has plenty of drama, but also a deeply inspirational quality. Whether you care about long-distance running or not – and, quite frankly, I don't – this is a skillfully-made documentary that sucks you right in. Charlie and Marshall are compelling guys. Their story will leave you amazed.

( 1/2 out of four)

Note: Running America will have a one-week theatrical run as part of the DigiNext series of independent films. It will play exclusively at all Digiplex Destinations cinemas nationwide. Best of all, Digiplex will contribute 30% of ticket sales to One Fund Boston to support their efforts to help victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. For more information, please visit the official DigiNext website.

Running America is unrated but contains some adult language. The running time is 1 hour and 26 minutes.

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