What compels a person to run 26.2 miles? All sorts of things, and in the new film The Spirit of the Marathon II, due in theaters nationwide on June 12, director Jon Dunham tells the inspirational stories behind seven of the more than 12,000 participants in the 2012 Rome Marathon.
On paper, the selected runners have little in common—they differ in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, and reasons for entering the race—but on the streets of the Eternal City, they share a goal: “overcoming the impossible,” as one expert says in the film’s trailer, and pushing their bodies to their absolute limits.
The follow-up to Dunham’s 2007 documentary Spirit of the Marathon, which followed five runners as they prepped for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, the film features interviews with such famed marathoners as Frank Shorter, Stefano Baldini, and Paula Radcliffe, as well as New York Road Runners’ president and CEO, Mary Wittenberg, winner of the 1987 Marine Corps Marathon.
The seven runners profiled in Spirit of the Marathon II include a Ukrainian Olympic hopeful, an American woman raising money to fight pancreatic cancer, and two-time Rwandan Olympian Epiphanie Nyirabarame, a woman who’s overcome gender discrimination throughout her remarkable career.
While shooting the film, Dunham traveled to six countries and two U.S. states, and he spent five months living in Rome. On the day of the race, he enlisted a team of 135 cinematographers, golf-cart drivers, helicopter pilots, and others to track the runners as they made their way through the ancient city.
“Everything in the film takes place within the context of the Rome Marathon,” Dunham said in a recent interview with Runner’s World, explaining the difference between his latest film and its predecessor. “One of the most important differences is that this film focuses on the characters’ personal life journeys that brought them to the marathon.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg