‘It’s a Run-derful Life:’ Christmas Movies Recreated for the Runner

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is almost here. Along with so many great memories made with friends and family, Christmas has been the theme behind some of the greatest movies ever made.

But for all of the great movies about the season, not one of them has included a running theme. It’s too bad, because as we all know adding a running-related plot twist to a movie just makes it better entertainment.

What if a few Christmas movies had been made with running in mind? Let’s take a closer look.

A Christmas Story – All young Ralphie wants for Christmas is a pair of Red Flyer shoes so he can be like his hero, Little Orphan Annie, who used an iron will and lots of Ovaltine to overcome great hardships and become a champion runner. Everywhere Ralphie turns, he’s told he can’t get the shoes because “running will ruin your knees, kid”. He dejectedly gets out of bed on Christmas morning, only to find that his “Old Man” had bought him some Red Flyers!

Ralphie excitedly puts on the shoes and goes out for a 10-mile run. Given he’d never run before this, his knee was throbbing by the time he got home. Unsure of what to do, he quickly remembered that he had scraped his knee in his fight with Scut Farkus but had never told his mom about the injury. He ripped his pant leg open and went inside crying that he had fallen and hurt his knee. His parents bought his story, and they all went out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant after the neighbor’s dogs had eaten their Christmas feast.

Ralphie goes on to become an Olympic champion and legendary coach.

It’s a Run-derful Life – George Bailey is a dedicated runner who has raised thousands for charitable causes through running marathons and using his business skills to manage local races. After trying – and failing – for the 20th time to qualify for the Boston Marathon, George gets drunk and boxes up his 25 pairs of running shoes with plans of dumping them in the river.

On the bridge, George is visited by his guardian angel, Steve Prefontaine, who shows George what life would be like if George had never started running. He shows George his other self, who can barely walk up stairs without losing his breath, and takes him around the community showing him the run down track at the high school, the dangerous, pothole-filled path at the park, and the dilapidated gym at the YMCA. Nobody in town runs anymore. Pre tells George all of those projects could have happened if someone had just raised the money.

Pre then takes George into the future, showing him at the starting line of the next year’s Chicago Marathon. George, who is single and painfully shy when it comes to women, is standing with the 3:20 pace group next to a cute girl. Pre tells George that not only will he qualify for Boston, Stacey, the girl he is standing next to, becomes his wife and they live happily ever after.

Overjoyed, George goes home and neatly arranges his shoes in his closet, then sets his alarm for 5 a.m. for his long run the next morning.

Die Hard – Despite its release date of July 12, 1988, Die Hard is indeed a Christmas movie. Anyway, John McClane, an NYPD cop, travels to Los Angeles in hopes of reconciling with his wife, Holly. Invited by Holly’s boss to the Nakatomi Corporation’s Christmas party, John arrives to an icy reception from his wife. Undaunted, John is cleaning up in the bathroom when German terrorists storm the building in hopes of robbing it of all the riches the Nakatomis have stored in the huge safe in the basement.

John, an avid runner, springs into action. With a huge aerobic base, mental toughness, and a tolerance for pain – glass, blisters…what’s the difference? – borne through years of marathon and ultra training, John relentlessly and tirelessly combs the building, taking out the terrorists along the way.

Ultimately, John and Hans Gruber, the leader of the terrorists, come face-to-face for a final confrontation. Gruber is amazed by John’s endurance and impressed that John had put in 25,292 steps while saving the world. He knows he has met his match and gives up peacefully.

John and Holly get back together, and John uses the $50,000 reward the LAPD gives him to pay for his new Garmin and all of his race fees for the next running season, and hires Van Halen to play at his birthday party.

On the way, home, John stops for some take out pasta to carb up for his long run that weekend.

If those plot twists don’t get you in the mood for the holidays, I don’t know what will. Have a wonderful holiday season, and a very happy New Year!


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