Marathon Training Movie Reviews – Part 2

In case you missed it, I kicked off a new series on the blog last week called The Jess Runs Happy Marathon Training Movie Reviews. In this series, I review the movies that I watched on the treadmill while I trained for the 2017 NYC Marathon, through the very specific and slightly skewed lens of a marathon runner; i.e. judging based on the number of miles each film helped me run and whether or not I cried while watching it.

Today I’m continuing the series with:

Ex Machina

As a Star Wars fan, this one was a no-brainer: it has General Hux AND Poe Dameron!

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sure, they look a little different, but space does weird things to a body…

In short: Bro-genius Nathan (Oscar Isaac) has invited schmoopy Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) to his underground laaaairrrr to perform the Turing Test on Alicia Vikander plays Ava, a slinky android. And, as is to be expected when you lock two supremely smart men in a labyrinth of underground halls filled with technology and *spoiler alert* evil robots, it takes a pretty hard left.

But not before we get treated to what is possibly the most mesmerizing, oddball, and perfect piece of dance in 21st century cinema:

I mean.

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Come on.

The absurdly deep V-neck. The drunken swagger. The use of the best Oliver Cheatham song ever. Move over, Citizen Kane. Poe mother*ckin Dameron is here and he’s gonna tear up the dancefloor.

Enough about the silly dance scene, you’re probably saying; how did it fare as a marathon training movie?

Distance: Right off the bat, this one gets an A+. With a runtime of 1 hour 50 minutes, I started this one at the beginning of a post-work 8-miler and expected to lose interest or call it at the 60 minute mark when I had to restart the treadmill. But I was so absolutely enthralled by this movie that I not only blew through it, but managed to finish my run just as it ended, all in one night, with only a few walk breaks. Near perfect.

Sob Factor: No tears. But in this case, I’m going to say that means it gets an A.

Inspiration Meter: There’s no real action to speak of, but Alicia Vikander and the rest of the androids are f*cking flawless, and both the male leads each had their own specific appeal. A+ for eye candy alone, #sorrynotsorry.

Overall Score: Let me set the scene for you so you can understand why this movie is getting the rating it is:

It’s near 8:30PM on a Tuesday. It’s dark out, you’re just finishing a 95 minute run in your office gym and there’s no one in the parking lot. You’re entirely alone. The building is very modern, lots of automatic lights and glass and marble – much like the set in the film about murderous robots you just watched. You leave the gym exhausted and sweaty, and walk into the empty hallway to get to the other side of the building where your car is parked. As the gym door closes behind you, a motion-activated light on the far side of the building flicks on, too far to have picked you up. “Hello?” you call. No answer. Slightly spooked, you take a slightly different route down a parallel hallway. You feel your pace quicken slightly as your heart starts to pound. Just as you’re about to get to the exit, a shadow on your left jumps out at you and you scream – before you realize that it’s your own god damn shadow, the god damn glass door is just half open, god dammit. You REALLY shouldn’t be watching scary movies alone.

A+. Have watched again. And again and again.

Impostor Syndrome

If job searching after working for one company for five years is like jumping back into the dating pool, starting a new job is like the first day of school, but on steroids. And much like a new school year, I looked forward to starting my new job back in March because it meant a fresh start. But more than that; I had the chance to adopt a new persona.

You see, for five years at my last job, I was known as the runner. But after the NYC Marathon, I wasn’t running. So I didn’t feel like a runner anymore. I had a serious case of Impostor Syndrome.

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When meeting new people at my job, the subject of hobbies came up a lot as an ice breaking conversation topic. But I avoided talking about running at every turn, even though most of my new coworkers had already seen the blog – hell, it’s on my resume, and the fact that I’d created Jess Runs Happy from the ground up helped land me my current role as a Social Media Manager. Instead, I focused on other things – my cat, my husband, Star Wars.

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It wasn’t so bad: I got to make a lot of new friends with varied interests by *not* focusing on running. And don’t get me started on all the new friends I made by hosting a surprise May the Fourth party. But as it tends to do, time passed. My injuries healed. I started running regularly. I had the urge to chase big scary goals again.

While it’s only been about two months or so, I’ve run more in these 8 weeks than I had in the previous 8 months, and I feel like I’ve learned something with every mile – especially as I get stronger with every run.

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Last week I ran three times, and improved with each run. I even ran 4 miles for time,  just to see how much better I could do than the previous run. I blew my old time out of the water and posted a 4-mile time I haven’t seen since pre-NYC Marathon training a year ago.

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I’m getting nostalgic about marathon training. I’ve got blisters from new socks again. That old black toenail is acting up again. I’m eating more carbs and going to bed early on Saturday nights to run on Sunday mornings again.

I’m proud to say I’m a runner again. 

I don’t know what made my Impostor Syndrome go away. Maybe it’s all the happy mood chemicals flooding my brain thanks to regular running; maybe it’s a fluke and I’ll have another bad week or month or year. Whatever happens, I’m going to ride the wave as long as I can and I’m looking forward to it.

I’m cleaning out the running gear that doesn’t fit anymore. I’m packing my bags every other morning for my evening run and avoiding those late night snacks I’ve grown so used to. I’m signing up for races in the future so I have something to work towards. What matters is I’m feeling more and more like my old self, and that feels good.

 

Marathon Training Movie Reviews

So now that we’ve established that my marathon training nostalgia means that I’ve completely lost my marbles, come with me on a trip down training memory lane – with a twist.

I give you: The Jess Runs Happy Marathon Training Movie Reviews.

In this series, I’m going to examine the movies I watched on the treadmill, all through the lens of a runner and rate them based on very specific, marathon-training-based criteria:

  1. Distance: Pretty simply put, how many miles did I run while watching this movie?
  2. Sob Factor: Because marathon training had a knack for making me emotional, especially towards the end, how many times did it make me cry?
  3. Inspiration Meter: Not all movies are about running, but they can still light a fire under you. How engrossed did I get in the movie that I was inspired to run farther?

At the end of each review I’ll tally the total points to give it a total score that means absolutely nothing in the real world but will hopefully give you a little chuckle. Ready? Let’s kick it off with a film that stands out in my memory right off the bat:

Neon Demon

This film had been on my must-watch list for a while, mainly because it looked *cool*. Dakota Fanning stars as Jesse, an aspiring model in a strange, fever-dream version of LA that’s filled with fashion-world predators. The marketing made it look like a slick, visually striking murder-mystery-with-a-neo-noir twist – and it was, at least for the first hour that I watched during a sunny post-work 5 miler. Hell, it even had Keanu Reeves and a mountain lion!

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Basically, Jesse leaves Georgia for L.A., and meets up with makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone) and two models, Sarah and Gigi. The fashion world is obsessed with Jesse’s youthful innocence, and the film makes no bones about the literal consumption of uncorrupted, perfectly packaged beauty and youth. She’s innocent enough, and I genuinely felt frightened for her in some scenes, like when she’s left alone with a creep-tastic photographer, or when she hears a woman being attacked violently in the hotel room next to hers one night.

But just as I finished my first 5 miler with this film, she walks the catwalk in a show and literally goes through the looking glass, into the heart of darkness. When I picked it up the next week during another 5 miler, The Neon Demon took a HARD left into psychological, gory horror-ville.

And I. Was. Not. Prepared.

 

The second half of this movie is so violent and strange and disturbing that I legit went off my company’s WiFi and watched on LTE because I worried I’d be put on some kind of list for using company resources to watch it.

While Jesse turns into the exact opposite of the naive ingenue she was in the first half of the film, Sarah, Gigi and Ruby all turn on Jesse too. And their true, witchy natures come out to… I guess play? Because when I say they turned on her, I don’t mean in a Mean Girls, three-way-calling-while-secretly-listening-in-while-we-talk-trash kind of way. I’m talking about pushing her off a diving board into an abandoned pool and murdering her with knives, then bathing in her blood in some kind of occult ritual kind of way.

It would have been weird enough to end there – I haven’t even mentioned the necrophilism, the knife swallowing, or the blood rivers that Ruby apparently can control with her punani. But instead, it kept going, for a final scene where…. I’m going to be real with you, I nearly had to stop the treadmill to be sick. I was going to copy and paste the final paragraph of the Plot section from Wikipedia, but honestly I don’t want to have that kind of copy on my blog. So go read it there, and then come back. Just know that I’m not responsible for any nightmares you may have from visualizing it.

Back? OK. So yeah. I finished mile 5 just as the credits started rolling, and basically regretted ever wanting to watch this movie in the first place. The worst part was, I’d been recommending it to people after watching the first hour! I immediately took to IG to recant my statements about it being cool and vowed to watch a whole movie before recommending it to people.

But hey – it helped me run 10 miles and gave me a good story, yeah?

Distance: 10 miles over 2 nights, a solid 2 hours of nonstop running. And running in fear counts, so it gets an A+ there. Best I could hope for in a film while running.

Sob Factor: I did not cry. At all. I screamed a lot though. So let’s give it a C- here.

Inspiration Meter: I wouldn’t so much call it inspiration as I would call it… distraction. But again, because I was so focused on the film, I forgot I was running on more than one occasion. A+.

Overall Score: If you can handle gore and don’t mind going “What the actual f*ck?” about a dozen times in an hour, by all means, give this a go. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. Solid B+.

Stay tuned for the next installments where I cover movies like Ex Machina, Zoolander 2, and Paterson!

Muscle Memory

Guys, I don’t know what’s going on these past few days, but I’m just going to come out and say it:

I’m nostalgic about marathon training.

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I honestly don’t know what snapped, but I find myself scrolling through old pictures and videos from those peak NYC Marathon Training training months of September and October of last year from the other side of the finish line, I suddenly feel… nostalgia.

Particularly those late weeknights where I’d run 5, 7, even 10 miles after a full day of work, all by myself, alone in the office gym with no one but me, myself, I, and my cell phone.

It was hard work. It was painful. And I KNOW I was burnt out, especially towards the end – hell, I have videos where I said exactly that to the camera:

I also remember a few nights where the miles wouldn’t come easily. One night I wound up screaming at myself for not being able to run 10 stupid miles when I’d just done 15 the weekend before.

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But there was also a lot of joy in those hours of running. I watched a lot of movies I’d been wanting to watch. I cracked myself up when I realized I’d filmed 3 Insta-Stories in a row about Jeff Goldblum’s Instagram feed and younger-than-me wife.

I had a blast talking to the camera about how I attempted to run the first mile or so on an incline and simulated the race course (with disastrous results).

I was happy knowing my body could do nearly impossible things. I was achieving new goals with every run. I remember driving home after some of those longer mid-week runs at 8:30, even 9PM some nights, singing along to my radio in total joy over what I had accomplished.

Go ahead and say “I told you so”, but… I am profoundly sad that I’m not doing that this year.

Does this mean I’m going to sign up for another marathon tomorrow? No. Not by a long shot. But it’s helped me learn that a lot of my marathon anxiety – and the general bad taste about running that was left in my mouth after the race – stemmed from the fact that it was my first time doing this big, huge, impossible thing.

With a little perspective, I realize now that the first time I attempted any distance, from 5K to half marathon, was rough. But with each race and each training cycle I kept at it, got stronger, learned new skills to cope with the dark times and better anticipated what to expect. Why would the marathon be any different?

In my nostalgia, I went back and re-read one of my final training posts from last year, when my sweet friend Liz gave me this gift when I was at the absolute lowest point of training:

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I thought “one day” meant Race Day.

I was wrong.

It’s taken me nearly a year, but all the physical and mental pain I went through to get to the end of 26.2 is finally starting to make sense.

And that’s pretty cool.

GIVEAWAY: Run the Ruth’s Chris Newport Half Marathon

It’s been a while since I’ve hosted a good old fashioned giveaway, so let’s do this thing!

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If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that I’m a huge fan of the Run Newport Races up in Jersey City, NJ. It started when I ran the 10K back in 2017. Not only did I have a blast, but I set a new PR on their fast, flat course.

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When they asked me to join them as a Blog Partner again for the Half Marathon later that year, I jumped at the opportunity to use it as a training run for the NYC Marathon and fell in love with my new favorite half marathon course.

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Seriously, the half may not be my favorite distance, but with the scenery you get during the Ruth’s Chris Newport Half Marathon, it didn’t feel like 13.1 miles. You run through twisty city streets and really good crowds, get a nice boost when you run through Liberty State Park for basically all of miles 5-10, and finish in the heart of Jersey City – where they have a sweet post-race party going on pretty much all day afterwards. Add super-easy parking and race morning logistics to the list and you’ll see why it’s my favorite race series ever.

Unfortunately, thanks to an unholy combination of injury and bad timing, I was unable to run the 10K earlier this year, and will not be risking injury again by attempting 13.1 later this month, having only run a max of 5 miles in the past 8 months.

And that makes me sad.

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BUT!

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My misfortune is your GOOD fortune, because I now have a FREE ENTRY to the Ruth’s Chris Newport Half Marathon that I’m giving away! All you have to do is ENTER HERE by 12AM on 9/6 – and the best part is you can earn a bunch of entries by doing different things like following me on Instagram, Twitter, and leaving a comment here on the blog.

So don’t miss out on your chance to run this fantastic race, enter now and we can compare course notes after the race!!