If you are — or know — a runner, you know that talking about running is almost as exciting as the act of running itself. In that same vein, watching the sport, or anything related to it, can be just as thrilling — and motivating.
Here are five films that you can stream on Netflix now, to learn about wild races, watch amazing performances and revel in world-class athletics.
This documentary, which premiered at the Nashville Film Festival, follows 12 runners as they collectively run to lose weight with an end goal of completing the 200-mile Ragnar Relay race from Miami to Key West, Florida. After meeting through social media and creating Team Fat to Finish, each runner trains to run three legs of the race, ranging from 2–10 miles each. Along the way, they overcome obstacles such as injuries, Type 2 diabetes and even doubt (not just from within but from family and friends as well). This is an eye-opening watch for any runner, as you will witness the group collectively shed 1,200 pounds and work together to run the 36-leg relay.
Runners of all levels will be part motivated and part bewildered by this documentary. Known as one of the hardest 100-mile races in the world, runners head to Tennessee every year with hopes of completing all five 20-mile loops. The race was first run in 1986 and was conceived by Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell, who was inspired by the escape of James Earl Ray — known for assassinating Martin Luther King, Jr. — from nearby Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. Only 40 runners compete every year and must submit an application, $1.60 application fee and essay about why they should be chosen to run. Runners must finish each loop in 12 hours and if, after 40 hours, runners have only completed 60 miles, they can opt out of finishing the entire race and get credit for a fun run. The full race has now been completed 17 times by 14 runners and must be seen to be believed. This documentary gives you an all-access pass to an unbelievable race that few runners compete in — and even fewer finish.
“Transcend” is a different type of documentary — one that follows a runner from the streets to Kenya’s parliament. Wesley Korir, who won the 2012 Boston Marathon, is the subject of the film, which gives viewers a front-row seat to his aspirations to become a politician. Runners will tune in for the footage that shows what it’s like to run in Kenya, and they’ll stay for the unlikely story of Korir, who is now serving in the Kenyan parliament. His time in politics is not keeping him from the sport, as he raced (but did not finish) in the Olympic Marathon in Rio. This film will appeal to all audiences and gives you a firsthand look at running — and politics — in another country.
This ESPN documentary tackles a very big issue in the running world: doping. It focuses on the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, where one of the most thrilling 100-meter men’s finals took place. That race has ultimately become known for scandal, as gold medalist Ben Johnson tested positive for anabolic steroids just 48 hours after the race. Taking matters further, at some point in their careers, six of the eight runners in that race tested positive for banned drug substances or were implicated in scandals. This film launched at a time when accusations, speculation and even positive drug tests have become widespread throughout the sport, and runners can educate themselves on the performers and athletes that have played a role in its history.
Before he was winning a slew of awards for his role in “Dallas Buyers Club” or headlining shows as the frontman of the band 30 Seconds to Mars, Jared Leto was logging miles as running icon Steve Prefontaine in this film. Revered in the running world for his time at the University of Oregon and with the Oregon Track Club, Prefontaine’s life was cut short at the age of 24 when he was killed in a car crash. The runner, coached by Bill Bowerman (of Nike fame), never lost an NCAA race at 3 miles, 5,000 meters, 6 miles or 10,000 meters; set records at multiple distances throughout his career; and ran at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Hayward Field, home of the Oregon Ducks, is one of the most iconic tracks and was home to many of Prefontaine’s epic performances. Nearby, you’ll find “Pre’s Rock,” a memorial set at the site of his car crash, where many runners pay their respects to the running great. This film takes a look at the life and death of one of the most influential runners in history.