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[CRITICAL] FREE TO RUN

FREE TO RUN is a documentary film that traces the incredible epic of the race on foot over the last fifty years, and who manages to fascinate from beginning to end. Runner or not, the images, the story and the music captivate us instantly because the struggles against the discrimination and injustices that have characterized this sport transcend the framework of it. It is thus more largely a question of the status of women, a spiritual quest to the well-being of reconnecting with nature but also to the economic liberalism that ends up irreparably by taking possession of the most beautiful movements of revolution. It is this that is treated with intelligence and humanity by Peter Morath in this film so amazing. The most surprising is perhaps the fact that so many people around the world, run freely and take part in Marathons without a doubt the historical facts that allowed this, and without ever having heard of the brave pioneers who fought in this direction.

FREE TO RUN is a kind of tribute which is finally returned to these emblematic figures that are mainly Katherine Switzer, Noël Tamini, Fred Lebow and Steve Prefontaine. Through a realization of the classic, Peter Morath manages, however, to make it fascinating thanks to the choice of images and stories that are visually and symbolically striking. By alternating, they come, in addition, illustrate forcefully the words of these key players whose motivation seems so pure and so sincere that it convinces us without penalty.

Director, sports Historian and himself a top-level athlete, it is with a lot of control that Peter Morath was able to develop a film recounting in chronological order the passage of a discipline-based and confined to the stadiums to a free practice and almost universally recognized. It is wisely focused on the United States and Europe because it is where have occurred the changes that have made the Race walk and the Marathon what they are today in western countries. Although it had been interesting to catch a glimpse of the other forms of perception of the sport (in Japan especially), that would necessarily have led to a dispersion, diluting the strength of the discourse focuses on two fundamental points that are the basis of freedom and equality.

One of the main issues addressed in the documentary is the access of women to the race on foot. It now seems shocking that it ever could have been otherwise and yet, there was not so long ago, they were simply not allowed to run more than 1500 m. The women’s marathon had been removed from the Olympic Games because of physical disability and was not able to be re-instated in 1981 thanks to the struggle of women who have continued to work a this direction. Among them, Katherine Switzer , whose determination and boldness have allowed many advances. The images of its official participation in the Boston Marathon in 1967 when it was illegal are shocking (photo above) and those of the first Olympic Marathon Female are not less. In FREE-TO-RUN, Pierre Morath invites us constantly to move on from the anger (discovering such nonsense total charged by the sports doctors of the time) to the emotion resulting from each victory on the path to equality.

“Free To Run “captive” instantly because the struggles against the discrimination and injustices that have characterized this sport transcend the framework of it.”

And then beyond the discrimination men/women, often based on ignorance medical, we discover through the tragic story of Steve Prefontaine (cover photo) the unequal treatment of athletes established by the régressiste American Federation of Athletics. Difficult to be indifferent to the injustices suffered by the man we called the “James Dean of track, ” the best distance runner in american of the time, who was the leader and symbol of a struggle against the dictates of the Federation. The latter enriched themselves on the backs of the riders, which raised the crowds but could not touch a single cent because of the amateur status that was imposed. It is fun however, on this occasion, learn how was born the giant Nike.

When we speak of freedom to run this also means that to run anywhere, not only in the stadiums. It is this last fight that was the spearhead of the incredible Fred Lebow, founder of the New York city Marathon in 1970 (photo below) which the entire world has followed the example. Through the songs selected by the director to illustrate his personality and his background, it is both surprised and admiring in the face of this man animated by a madness that is truly innovative and has completely messed the codes of the genre. A small group of eccentrics who were running in the Bronx, Fred Lebow did not have of cease to want to broaden the scope of the race at all, and on the roads.

The swiss Christmas Tamini was also all these battles, thanks to the specialized magazine Spiridon , which he founded in 1972 and which will have a global impact (emblem of the opposition to the federations, active militant for the right to run free to all and outside stadiums). What is emphasized is that it conveys a new image of the race on foot, the more attractive. It becomes the symbol of a personal accomplishment that is more fun than the competition. It appears as a spiritual experience of communing with nature, or even as a hygienic necessity.

Finally, Pierre Morath has the honesty not to exclude the other side of the coin. He invites us to find where to stop the enthusiasm raised by this activity (through the episode of hurricane Sandy, which struck the state of New York 6 days before the Marathon). On the other hand, we see how the americans (and all others) seized control of a movement libertarian to make it a real business as this is always and inevitably the case. Through the discourse of a handful of marginal yesteryear, one perceives thus, in spite of the injustices that were rife, a certain nostalgia of that time. The regret of the time when, in the absence of collective frenzy, and connected objects, they ran only with their ideals, and their pleasure in the alleys of Central Park.

Stephanie Ayache

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