Sunday, August 21, 2011

Film Major: "Running America"

In one year from today, Greensboro, NC's Charlie Engle will be released from prison. Right before he was indicted, his film, "Running America," had just been released. Much of the promotion tour for "Running America" was cancelled, due to Engle's arrest, but Charlie isn't really the star of "Running America." That title goes to grand master (over 50) Marshall Ulrich.

Ulrich is a long time endurance runner from Colorado that faces obvious internal conflict as he attempts the 50+ cross country speed record. His story truly picks up in "Running America" when Charlie's ends. Charlie gets injured early into the film and can't continue the 3000+ mile jaunt across the country. Where Charlie's charisma is demanding of the audience's attention, Ulrich's struggle is equally, if not more, enthralling. Ulrich's wife succumbed to cancer at 28, and as his daughter Elaine states, he's been running from that ever since. Seeing Ulrich carry on day after day, averaging ~58 miles per day for 52 days is enough to make most of us feel pretty soft! Ulrich has also written a book about his nationwide trek, entitled "Running on Empty."

Engle and Ulrich take off on their journey
The scenery in "Running America" isn't quite that in "Running the Sahara." The film's B-story is the restlessness with the government and the economy surrounding the 2008 election. While many "locals" along the nationwide journey are interviewed about their disillusionment with the state of the nation, the running story still leads the way. Those interviewed seem most bothered towards the beginning of the journey/film and seem more hopeful by the time Ulrich is finishing up and Barack Obama is winning the 2008 election. It's filmmaking. It just seems a little odd as there are really two stories going on that don't really weave together.

That being said, "Running in America" is indeed entertaining, especially for those that have not seen "Running the Sahara," as there are many familiar scenes of blister popping and just watching grown men deal with the agonizing pain that comes with running an average of 2+ marathons per day! When Engle is on screen, he commands it. His passionate attitude and dealing with those with special needs is excellent. Hopefully he'll continue more of that when he's released a year from today. If you aren't already, follow Charlie's always entertaining twitter feed about life inside Beckley Prison and his introspective and also comedic blog, the aptly titled "Running in Place." Finally, check out Adam Higginbotham’s article, "Nowhere to Run," in the September 2011 issue of Men's Journal (click here for the article).

Pick up "Running America" on here.

Check out the "Running America" trailer here:

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your review of the documentary and for mentioning Running on Empty by Marshall Ulrich!