An over-the-hill distance runner and lapsed left-wing radical (Bruce Dern) begins training for the infamous 'Dipsea' marathon: a brutal contest run between San Francisco Bay and Stinson Beach over the 2600 foot summit of Mount Tamalpais. Rob Nilsson's modestly budgeted (but quite accomplished) drama may, in outline, resemble a Marin County 'Rocky' rip-off, but the scenario hides more than one surprise, including a novel twist to the all-too familiar against-the-odds formula: Dern's political beliefs get him banned from professional competition, and after entering the race illegally he has to contend not only with the physical demands of the course itself, but also with irate officials trying to pull him bodily off the track throughout its length. Long distance running can hardly be called an exciting spectator sport, so it's all the more surprising to find so much tension generated during the climactic challenge, for the most part by a combination of deft editing and ominous music cues. But the effect is nearly spoiled by a discordant 'Chariots of Fire' resolution, in which Nilsson's already obvious political sentiments are pulled too far into the foreground.
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