16-bit bio of Cuban marathoner Alberto Salazar is a trip for runners

There’s something special about the aesthetic of pixel art as applied to sports. Maybe it’s a sort of purity and simplicity – each little chunk of color needs to be arranged just so to get the effect – but I find myself drawn to it in nearly every example I see.

Much like the excellent 8-bit-football, you don’t need to be a distance running enthusiast to appreciate the simple beauty of Nick Criscuolo’s “mini biopic” video of famed marathoner Alberto Salazar. You don’t even need to know what the Boston Marathon is, or how/why it’s one of the most famous and grueling elite road races in America, nor do you need to know about the importance of the University of Oregon’s running program (or about the legendary Steve Prefontaine). You don’t even need to be a runner.

It helps, of course, and makes the piece more resonant.

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Running is “my” sport. I’ve been running (at least semi-competitively) since childhood, and I was the captain of the women’s cross-country team at my college. I believe I watched Pre about 12 times total in those four years of riding the team bus to races at ungodly hours on Saturday mornings. For some inexplicable reason, we watched Remember the Titans even more often, and terrible 80s and 90s movies like Ski Patrol almost as much. You suffer for your sport.

I know I’m biased, but running represents to me one of the purest forms of athletic competition, and one of the rawest examples of physical human drama in all of sports. Sure, it lacks the punch of huge men crunching into each other, or the thrill of mastering the complexity of rulesets – but my god, if you want to see tenacity, pain, and real, unfiltered spirit, watch the last mile of a marathon.

Criscuolo’s video really captures that drama – the guts and the glory, so to speak.  So while I understand that it will probably be a long, long time before there is a great game about long distance running, I’ll be happy with this.