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41st Day Movie Review - Documentary of Ryan Hall

Posted by George Parker on
41st Day Movie Review - Documentary of Ryan Hall

41st Day is a documentary film covering the journey of marathon great Ryan Hall as he seeks to rebound from his calamitous performance at the 2012 Olympic Games. We trek across continents and deep into the Christian faith, ultimately building a profound picture of Ryan as more than the fastest American marathoner in history. 

41st Day stars Ryan Hall, two-time Olympian and the American with the fastest marathon finish (2:04:58). It is the first feature-length film by American filmmaker Tim Jeffreys. Released in September 2019, the film runs 90 minutes and is available on Amazon Prime.

The project originated when Jeffreys approached Ryan Hall about documentary his journey between the 2012 US Olympic Trials and the 2012 Olympic Games. At the time, Ryan was at the pinnacle of the marathoning world. He held the American half-marathon record (59:43) and was the only American to run sub-2:05 (2:04:58). Ryan had finished in the Top 5 in 6 major world marathons and never finished below 10th place. He was a two-time Olympian and looked to be the runner who could finally challenge the East African dominance in marathoning.  

The 2012 Olympics changed everything. After 11 miles, Ryan dropped from the race with a tight hamstring. What was supposed to be the conclusion of the original documentary was now the commencement. What happened? Was this the end of Ryan's professional running career? Could he rebound for the 2016 Olympics? What role did his controversial Faith-Based Self-Coaching play in the catastrophic finish? With this background,  41st Day evolves into a comprehensive overview of Ryan Hall's running career. For the next four years, Tim would travel with Ryan documenting his worldwide and spiritual journey to reclaim his running form. 

41st Day strives for a deeper understanding of Ryan as the person beyond exclusively the runner. Ryan's spirituality is harmoniously interwoven with his running. (You'll us understand the origin on the film's title.) Given this context, Ryan's controversial decision to embark on faith-based self-coaching has unique clarity. Moreover, understanding Ryan's faith makes for easier recognition of his decision to retire at the age of 33. In perhaps a larger metaphor, his faith's acceptance and humility allow Ryan to appreciate when the end has come giving him the ability to leave with dignity. 

41st Day covers secular relationships as well. We see a deep familial bond between Ryan and his younger brother that is constructive, uplifting, and mutually beneficial --- unlike the competitive underlay of many sibling relationships. Ryan's partnership with Sara Hall, his wife and professional runner, is extraordinary. He is a vigorous and steady supporter of her dreams and goals. Even when his own running career is approaching its denouement, Ryan supports Sara without jealousy and resentment. You see Ryan's unadulterated delight with Sara's successes and aching melancholy with her failures. Toward the end of the film, we see an even more intimate look of Ryan and Sara Hall as parents of adopted sisters and philanthropists through their Hall STEPS Foundation. For such a solitary and individualistic sport as running, Ryan is the unexpected ambassador showing that the path to fulfillment relies on others as much as yourself.

I recommend watching 41st Day, especially for fans of distance running. 

The story is captivating. However, the film's real value is the rare behind-the-scenes footage from one of the world's greatest marathoners' during the most challenging and controversial portions of his career. You could not ask for a better time to have had a documentary filmmaker present.

I hope you enjoy it! Best wishes chasing your running goals.

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