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Only long-distance running fanatics will find much of anything to appreciate in Robert Lusitana’s documentary about famed coach Bob Larsen. Described in the press notes as “an opportunity to pay tribute to his former coach” by the filmmaker who ran on teams at Grossmont College and UCLA, City Slickers Can’t Stay With Me: The Coach Bob Larsen Story is strictly for the initiated.
Seen in copious interviews throughout the overlong film, Larsen emerges as a thoughtful, well spoken person who belies the common stereotype of the shouting, bullying coach. His primary principle being “Run hard,” he’s championed the use of threshold training and altitude training to produce maximum results.
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And he’s certainly achieved those results, beginning with success at San Diego State and then at various other schools, including a record-breaking, two-decade stint at UCLA.
The film centers on one of Larsen’s most celebrated protégés, Meb Keflezighi, who left his war-torn country of Eritrea when he was ten years old and settled with his family in San Diego. Under Larsen’s training, he represented the United States at the Olympics three times between 2000 and 2012, winning a silver medal in 2004. In 2014, he became the first American man to win the Boston Marathon in 31 years, at the age of 38.
Keflezighi sings his coach’s praises lavishly, as do many other runners from throughout Larsen’s career, including one who describes him as “the guru of distance running.” The result is that the film seems more appropriate for a testimonial dinner than theater screens, with virtually no voices heard from outside Larsen’s colleagues and acolytes.
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It all comes across as sweet and well meaning, but despite the extensive archival clips of Larsen’s disciples and their many triumphs, City Slickers Can’t Stay With Me mostly feels like it’s running in place.
Production: RLJ Film, Extant Media, Breadtruck Films, First Fruits Productions
Director: Robert Lusitana
Producers: Robert Kirk, Donna E. Lusitana
Director of photography: Jeff Durkin
Editor: R.L. Shontell
Composers: Dylan Berry, Richard Lauw, Stefan Kitrownik
Not rated, 113 min.
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