Based on the real-life events of acclaimed ultra-marathoner David Horton, Extraordinary follows Horton as his dream of tackling a nearly 3,000-mile run takes its toll on his body and brings his marriage to the breaking point.
The movie is equal parts ultramarathon and marital conflict resolution making it a great date night pick. Extraordinary is in theaters for a one-night Fathom Event on Thursday, September 7. Extraordinary was created and produced by Liberty University’s film program. The movie features Leland Klassen (Alter Egos), Shari Rigby (October Baby), Karen Abercrombie (War Room), and Kirk Cameron (Fireproof).
David Horton’s backstory is told through his interactions with his students at Liberty University. He completed three ultra-marathons, survived open heart surgery, and inspires students to keep running. It is clear he is an extraordinary man, encouraging students in word and deed to do more than they think they can. His motto, “If the mind is willing, the body is able,” seems to inspire everyone to finish well.
His motto may not be enough to help him overcome his newest obstacles. With the goal of running another transcontinental (California to New York) marathon before him, Horton’s doctor warns that his body may not endure the stress. Then, his wife Shari lets him know their marriage may not endure the stress of another race. After years of David leaving for months at a time to compete in ultramarathons, Shari is tired of coming in second place in David’s life.
The struggle represented in the film is familiar to married couples. Individual pursuits sometimes trump the relationship. The Hortons keep it real, reflecting our propensity toward selfish behaviors. One spouse longs for support while the other withholds out of bitterness. One spouse wants to be a priority while the other chooses his ambition for fulfillment. Sometimes what seems like a calling from God leads to a jagged rift between a husband and wife. When struggling couples refuse to move toward each other, isolation grows. We see this tender conflict between the Horton’s resulting in a painful, lonely separation.
The parallel between running a marathon and staying married is made obvious. The marriage ceremony is the bang of the starter pistol. Hearts race and faces flush with anticipation. Too soon, the monotony and stress of everyday life begin to wear on the runners until couples aren’t sure they can finish the race before them. Writers make the analogy clear with “finish line” dialogue and Scripture giving couples and churches discussion starters.
Horton and his wife rely on the support of their community and the power of prayer to help them survive both the marathon and their marriage. Horton is considered extraordinary but comes to realize that his success comes at the expense of his family and marriage. He discovers love and humility will help him win this race. Shari also softens toward her husband, demonstrating the principle that it takes two to make a marriage work. Relationship evangelism, creationism, and a Kirk Cameron cameo make this film a total package when it comes to Christian entertainment.
For a student creation, Extraordinary is surprisingly well-done. For anyone unfamiliar with ultramarathons, the story has a swiss cheese beginning, but the holes fill as the movie progresses. It’s a beautiful film with scenes from the crisp campus of Liberty University and running shots in front of peaceful American landscapes. Much like Horton’s journey across the U.S., the movie has a few stalls and trips along the way, but it reaches the finish line victorious.
Scotty Curlee produced and directed the film. Curlee serves as an Assistant Professor in Liberty University’s Cinematic Arts program. For more information about the film including participating theaters and church resources, visit ExtraordinaryMovie.com.
Images courtesy of Icon Media Group.