'McFarland, USA' is more than just a movie
With the movie "McFarland, USA," Disney has managed to not only elevate running beyond just moving legs, but it also has given most people a glimpse of hard-working farm workers they might not otherwise have.
The movie, starring Kevin Costner as Coach Jim White, follows the McFarland High School cross-country team on their path to taking their first state CIF cross-country championship in 1987.
McFarland, located about 25 miles north of Bakersfield just off Highway 99, is one of the state's poorest towns and boasts a population that is more than 90 percent of Mexican descent.
If you're a student of running, you may find minor fault with some of the running scenes. But overall, the film gives a pretty good overview of cross-country and the sport's benefits to students as a whole.
This is a movie that's suitable for all ages and really shows that through hard work, you can attain just about anything.
Five running-related predictions for 2015
Two weeks into 2015, and it's time to look into the ole crystal ball and make some predictions for the coming running season. It will be fun to see how many of these actually come to the fruition. Good thing I'm not a betting man.
1. As the number of runs and races continues to increase, swag will grow in importance as a means of differentiation. But so will the price of these events.
Some races, such as the national Hot Chocolate series and the Nike Women's Half-Marathon, are popular for their finishers' prizes and not necessarily their fast, PR-producing courses.
Even more local runs, such as the Modesto Marathon, have increased the swag they offer entrants to try to lure them into registering. This year, the 5K, for example, offers all registrants a tech t-shirt and finisher's medal. The price rose accordingly to offset the increased costs compared with last year's cotton t-shirt and lack of finisher's medal.
2. Some extreme obstacle races will grow even more extreme. The latest is the Tough Mudder, which just announced it will be adding a tear-gas like substance to simulate what it's like to face chemical weapons.
The feature, dubbed the "Cry Baby," is expected to be incorporated into all 55 or so Tough Mudders this season.
3. Themed races are falling out of favor. The one-and-done, been there, done that, sentiments have befallen these events. The event include mud runs, color runs, neon runs, zombie runs, Santa runs, ugly sweater runs and electric runs.
In fact, some of the nationwide companies that produced these themed events have gone out of business or filed for bankruptcy.
4. Half-marathons will continue to grow in popularity, although not at the break-neck pace they have in the past. The 13.1-mile distance is a challenge but not so insurmountable that even a couch potato couldn't conquer them.
Rina's Run in Ripon, for example, converted its 10K to a half a few years ago, and the KP Women's Festival Run in Sacramento added a half last year.
But how many half-marathons can an area support? The Central Valley is pretty much saturated.
5. The true minimalistic shoes, such as Vibram FiveFingers that have zero drop and about as much support and cushion as a piece of cardboard, are history. Vibram is probably still trying to recover from the myriad lawsuits filed against the company for false advertising. And the barefoot running craze has gone the way of FiveFingers.
What these shoes did do was spur most manufacturers to look at lighter materials that reduced the overall weight of shoes. In some cases, they may have actually reduced the weight too much to the point where favorite models now lack some of the support and cushion that made them so popular.