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The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)


Alan Sillitoe adapted his short story for this film directed by Tony Richardson. It tells the story of teenage rebel Colin (Tom Courtenay), a boy whose burglarising has brought him to borstal, where he excels at running. The governor sees an opportunity to best the nearby public school in competition and for him running is rehab. Brilliantly organised flashbacks illustrate Colin’s deprived background, his mother’s adultery, his father’s enforced death, a beach outing with his mate and their girlfriends, the stupidity that leads to the theft. We return to the occasion of the race and jump cut back and forth to everything that has passed and Colin just stops. Stops. He stops running. This film is incredible. It never fails to move me. Even as Colin has stopped. A work of genius. You simply have to see it.

About elainelennon

An occasional movie-watching diary.

2 responses to “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)

  1. Love many of the British films of the sixties (This Sporting Life, Billy Liar, If, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, etc.). Distance Runner is one of the best. Tom Courtenay is such a great actor. Loved him in The Dresser and 45 Years!

  2. I screened this for a group of 17-year olds some time back and the effect was electrifying: they whooped and hollered and jumped up and down! They were just crazy about what TC does here! It was heartening to experience. What a film.

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