56 user 36 critic

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)

Not Rated | | Drama, Sport | 8 October 1962 (USA)
A juvenile offender at a tough reform school impresses its governor with his running ability and is encouraged to compete in an upcoming race, but faces ridicule from his peers.



(screenplay), (adapted from his short story by)

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Won 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 4 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview:
Avis Bunnage ...
Mrs. Smith
Dervis Ward ...
Topsy Jane ...


A rebellious youth, sentenced to a boy's reformatory for robbing a bakery, rises through the ranks of the institution through his prowess as a long distance runner. During his solitary runs, reveries of his life and times before his incarceration lead him to re-evaluate his privileged status as the Governor's prize runner. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Drama | Sport


Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

8 October 1962 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Rebel with a Cause  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


Director Tony Richardson married star Michael Redgrave's daughter, Vanessa Redgrave, shortly after filming ended. The couple had two children together, Natasha Richardson and Joely Richardson, before divorcing in 1967. See more »


When the boys are doing gardening work one character calls another "you mug" (meaning gullible idiot). This is incorrectly recorded in the subtitles as "you muppet" but the word "muppet" - meaning an idiot - was not in use when the film was made. See more »


[first lines]
Colin Smith: Running was always a big thing in our family, specially running away from the police. It's hard to understand. All I know is that you've got to run, running without knowing why, through fields and woods. And the winning post's no end, even though the barmy crowds might be cheering themselves daft. That's what the loneliness of a long distance runner feels like.
See more »


Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Skydivers (1994) See more »


Rhona Roy Dresses (TV Advertisement)
Music by Johnny Johnston
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User Reviews

Not as relevant as it was but still interesting, well acted and has memorable moments
3 January 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

After getting caught robbing a bakery, Colin Smith is sent to Ruxton Towers reformatory as punishment. Working out the system quite quickly, Colin sets out to divert attention from himself, ingratiate himself with the Governor and thus have a better chance of getting an easy ride and being let out early. His background in distance running (and speed at running from the scene of his crimes) bring him to the fore in the athletics competitions and it is not long before Colin is allowed out alone to train. During his long runs Colin has time to think back over his life outside, the fun, the family upbringing and the crimes that landed him inside.

Although it has dated and is not as relevant anymore, this is still an interesting film that looks at the trap of being born into a working class family with limited opportunities and a bleak future ahead of you. The film uses flashbacks well to judge the system without being too obvious – the family background, the small hopes and dreams, the lack of inspiration etc; they all lead Colin into a petty life of crime. The structure works well to keep both threads (in and out) moving ahead well and it is interesting enough. The film also (in my opinion) is pretty fair by showing how those at the bottom of the ladder also must blame themselves for failing to take the chances offered to them – as shown by Colin's possible athletics career. This is a fair comment and helps to prevent this becoming just a rant in defence of the downtrodden classes.

Watching it today sees it lose a lot of its relevance because the class distinction is less evident now that it was then and Colin would be a lot less likable if we were a modern day Chav with a "f*** you" attitude and no education – at least here we are able to feel for him a bit. As it is Courtenay (now Sir Courtenay) plays it very well – Colin is a human, someone we like but also someone trapped in a situation that is partly his own making. Redgrave plays the upperclass Governor very well and we at once are for him and against him, feeling sorry for his failing attempts to help. Support is pretty realistic (well – I assume anyway) for the period and Bolam is a surprise find in a young role.

Overall this is still a good film but, as with anything set in a very realistic setting, it is not as relevant today as it was then. It is still interesting though and has things to say that still generally apply today even if class is less of an issue (now money has less to do with class than it did then). The acting is good, the direction is very down to earth and realistic and the film is still well worth seeing (with that very memorable conclusion to the race being a very memorable moment).

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