8 Inspirational Movies Every Triathlete Must Watch

There are just two types of people. The ones who say “I can” and the ones who say “I’ll try.”

Nothing moves us quite like the stories of people who have said “I can” and set out to accomplish just that. Movies bring out such stories in unforgettable ways stirring and motivating people to achieve their dreams, inspiring athletes to push beyond their limits. These 8 must watch movies are all-time favorites that every triathlete should watch.

The Flying Scotsman (2006)

This movie is based on the life and career of a Scottish amateur cyclist named Graeme Obree. Obree, who suffers from bipolar disorder since childhood, is obsessed with building a bicycle.  “Old Faithful” is created using scrap metal (parts of a washing machine) and is designed to bring maximum efficiency and speed at any racing event. Obree with his friend and manager (Malky McGovern) plan to break the World One-hour Cycling record in Norway.

Why watch: The Flying Scotsman resonates with us because the movie is grounded in the relatable reality of a battle that constantly goes on within ourselves and with an imperfect world. Even though Obree is a genius, we see how he copes with depression, childhood bullies and the Union Cycliste Internationale who change the rules to discourage him from competing.

Watch the trailer on Youtube:

American Flyers (1985)

David’s (David Grant) sports physician brother, Marcus (Kevin Costner), persuades him to train for a three-day bicycle  “Hell of the West” race across the treacherous Rocky Mountains. To get a taste of the high-speed competition, the brothers embark on a journey to Colorado. Marcus realizes that David needs to train more to be ready for the Rockies. So they engage in training which includes escaping an angry, vicious dog and racing against horses.

During the race, however, David barely qualifies for the second stage. That doesn’t deter Marcus who sets out to strategize how to recover lost time. However, a life-altering discovery puts David in a dilemma that could destroy all hopes of completing the race.

Why watch: See how passion, commitment and love are essential elements that help athletes push beyond their limits.

Watch the trailer on YouTube:

Without Limits (1998)

This biographical sports film is about the late long-distance runner Steve Prefontaine. The movie traces his life from Oregon, where he was born, to the 1972 Munich Olympics and his sudden death at the age of 24.

The hallmark of the movie is Steve’s bull-headed persistence in running full pace for both long and short distances. In one scene, Bill Bowerman (Steve’s coach) talks to him about saving time and energy by laying back (running slow) for a couple of miles before running full pace for the last few 100 yards. Steve vehementhly disagrees saying, “I will not run any other way but the only way I know, flat out till there is nothing left in me.”

If you want to know more about the man who once held the U.S. record in every long-distance event from the 2,000 meters to the 10,000 meters, don’t miss watching this one.

Why watch: Steve Prefontaine is an example of a runner who truly believed in himself. His focus and faith in doing things “his way” was undefeatable even when winning was on the line.

Watch one of the best parts of Without Limits.

Breaking Away (1979)

This comedy-drama is a coming-of-age tale that will resonate with anyone who fondly remembers their teenage days. Breaking Away is about Dave who lives in Bloomington, Indiana. The things that matter most to him are his parents, his friends, his Masi bicycle and his obsession for Italians and cycling.

When a professional Italian cycling team comes to town, Dave is excited to compete! However, an incident during the race leaves him depressed and disillusioned. Dave’s friends push him to compete in the annual Indiana University Little 500 bicycle race.

Why watch: Dave is no international athlete. But the goofy teenager’s sheer determination to continue racing defines the direction of his life. Copious reserves of skill and grit show up when they are needed the most.

Here’s the trailer:

Running Brave (1983)

This movie revolves around Billy Mills (Robby Benson), a Native American, who left the world stumped when he won the 10,000 meter run in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, making him the only American in history to make this record. Billy ran track at the University of Kansas under a tough coach and competed successfully for a spot at the Tokyo Olympics. Discriminated against for being a Native American, the film depicts his journey from a poor kid in Kansas, including setbacks and times when he almost gives up only to pick himself up again and experience victory.

Why watch: Sometimes underdogs win by purely keeping their heads down and doing what they do best. Learn how courage and perseverance can be the two best friends an athlete needs during hard times.

Watch Billy Mills cross the finish line:

Chariots of Fire (1981)

This movie tells the story of the conviction, persistence and faith of two athletes, Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who competed in the 1924 Summer Olympics. The movie is also famous for its stirring, epic soundtrack from the composer Vangelis.

During a race Eric Liddell is pushed off the track and loses a significant amount of time. Instead of giving up, Eric doubles his pace to close in on the competition. On the last 50 yards, Eric gathers his strength one last time to race through to the finish line.

Why watch: This Academy Award winner shows what it takes to fight all odds (including family, sometimes) to pursue your dreams while holding on to your convictions.

Watch Liddell cross the finish line:

Personal Best (1982)

Personal Best portrays the trials and tribulations of a group of women competing to qualify for the American track and field team bound for the 1980 Olympics. The movie follows protagonist Chris Cahill, who does not succeed at the 1976 U.S. Olympic trials. Later she teams up with a more experienced track and field competitor, Tory Skinner, who helps improve her performance.

Why watch: This movie shows what it was like being a female athlete competing for an Olympic spot during a politically troubled time (the 1980 Olympic games were eventually boycotted by the U.S). It is also authentic in its display of the often complex relationships between athletes and coaches.

Watch the trailer:

Rocky (1976)

Who would have thought that a 1976 movie made in just 28 days would go on to win three Oscars?

Rocky inspired generations of viewers and spawned six sequels. It chronicles the life of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), a struggling debt collector and club fighter, who gets a shot at facing the reigning World Heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed. However, Creed does not know that Rocky has determined to either win or be beaten up in a fight until he couldn’t move a muscle.

This is a must watch for anyone who hasn’t yet seen “ the Italian Stallion” on screen!

Why watch: The movie is simply compelling, with the hours of sweat and blood that Rocky expends to perfect his boxing techniques. Rocky trains furiously, with all that he’s got. His intense practice sessions includes punching carcasses hanging in meat freezers and running up the long flight of stairs at the Philadelphia Art Museum.

Get a taste of his “never quit” attitude in this fight scene where his trainer tells him to ‘stay down’.

Are you inspired? When triathletes make the effort to push beyond their limits to win, it is not without meeting failure along the path somewhere. Personal struggles, failing and losing hope are challenges that need more than physical endurance. Drawing inspiration and strength from the lives of champions in such times, real or fictional, can often be the best thing to do.

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