Wednesday, January 29, 2020

"Brittany Runs a Marathon" Review

I'm a bit late to the game, but I finally sat down to watch Brittany Runs a Marathon and I wanted to share my thoughts.
Brittany Runs a Marathon is about the titular Brittany, a financially struggling nearly-30 woman living in New York. She doesn't take great care of her body and sets out to make some healthy changes in her life, starting with losing weight. Too broke to join a gym, she picks up running. She decides, after completing a 5k, to run the NYC Marathon.
So, I mostly genuinely enjoyed this movie. Brittany's emotional/ mental journey is so relatable; I think most "late blooming" runners (including myself) can completely identify with the fear of the first run and the total exhilaration you feel at its completion. While I think the movie really skimmed the mechanics of early running (lots of walk breaks, your pace bouncing all over the place, lack of stamina), it did get a few things right.

For example, Brittany first wears sweats, Converse sneakers, and loose hair for her runs. Eventually, you start to see that she has learned how to dress appropriately as she figures out what she's doing.

When she completes her first 5k race, I teared up as she crossed the finish line. There is nothing like it! I laughed when her friend, upon hearing she was planning to run said 5k, says, "You're gonna run a marathon?!" We've all heard that from our non-runner friends.

One of the most nuanced plot lines in the movie is Brittany's relationship with her best friend Gretchen. As Brittany celebrates her weight loss progress and becomes more dedicated to her running and healthy lifestyle, Gretchen all but attempts to sabotage her; at the very least, she undermines Brittany's new life goals, tempting her with alcohol, junk food, and even drugs. I think most of us have dealt with someone in our lives who has seen us try to better ourselves and has responded by lashing out. I have a theory that those sorts of people feel defensive and perhaps even attacked for not also making different life choices; they are forced to reflect on their own choices and don't like what they see.

This plot line also gives Brittany a chance to act on the new confidence running gives her. I think the best thing about learning to run later in life is that you suddenly realize how much you're capable of. You realize you're stronger, braver, and more resilient than you ever expected. Suddenly, that newfound confidence spills over into everyday life. Running absolutely changes you, not just physically, but mentally as well. I thought the movie did a good job highlighting the complete transformation Brittany undergoes.

Brittany also makes new friends. At first, they're her running friends. Then they become real friends. Or, perhaps I should say, fuller friends. The relationships made through running together are truly special, and the movie spends time on that, which I appreciated.

There are, of course, bumps in the road. We learn that you have to be willing to internalize the changes you've made; you need to truly learn who this new you is in order to stick with it and succeed. You have to believe that you ARE the kind of person who can train for and run a marathon.

My biggest issue with the movie is that it generally skims over the work put into training for a marathon. Once it's established that Brittany is training, we don't see much more of it at all. She often mentions that she has "a run in the morning", but we never get to see her celebration as she follows her training plan and does the work. We never see her excitement in completing her first double-digit run, or her fear and determination in facing the last long run in her plan.

The thing about training for a marathon is that the training is what changes you. Yes, race day is totally something like you've never experienced. Yes, crossing that finish line is unlike anything else in the world. But any runner will tell you that you come face-to-face with yourself during the hard weeks of training, and it's a shame that that was completely left out of the movie.

Running helps you face your insecurities. As you feel stronger and accomplish your goals, your life changes. YOU change. By relegating the training to the background, we lose some insight into why Brittany has changed so much by the end of the film.

In the end, this is a movie more about how running can change you and impact the rest of your life than it is about running itself. Because of that, I can grudgingly forgive the egregious lack of major training milestones.

In short, Brittany Runs a Marathon got a lot of things right. I was rooting for Brittany to succeed and turn her life around. I was frustrated when she dealt poorly with setbacks. I was emotional when race day finally came around...and I cried when the movie title finally played out and we got to see her realize her dream.

I'd recommend this movie to runners, no matter what distance you prefer to run. You'll see yourself in Brittany and it will leave you feeling proud and motivated to lace up and hit the pavement.


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