In August, I watched Runner. This is the seventh film in a new series from ESPN films. Called Nine for IX (as in Title IX), the series includes films about women made by women. With everything going in at work and home, I have gotten behind in writing about the Nine for IX films and watching the new 30 for 30 films that came out in October.
Runner is the story of Mary Decker. From 1972 to 1985, Decker dominated her sport, holding U.S. records in every distance from 800 to 10,000 meters. During her career, she won gold medals in the 1500 meters and 3000 meters at the 1983 World Championships, and set 17 official and unofficial world records and 36 US national records. During this era, she was the only American to regularly out sprint the Russian and Eastern European middle-distance runners.
Despite her accomplishments, she never won an Olympic medal. She was too young for the 1972 games, had stress factures in 1976 and missed 1980 due to the Soviet boycott.
Decker is most remembered for the 1984 Olympics and the 3,000 final. On the third lap of the race, she tangled with 17-year-old South African Zola Budd, fell and couldn't continue. This race with Zola Budd is the centerpiece of the film. The documentary spends some time looking at Zola Budd's rise to fame. Amazingly, Decker also qualified for the 1988 and 1996 Olympics.
This is one of the better Nine for IX films. I was particularly interested in this story because I had some two degrees of separate from Mary Decker. For two years in college, I dated Laurie Littenberg. Laurie ran cross country in at Davis. While in high school, she trained with Mary Decker on the Blue Angels track club in Southern California.
Runner is available on iTunes.