IFI Ireland on Sunday Interview: Marcus Stewart, co-director of ‘Marathon Men’

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Marathon Men is a new feature documentary from Earth Horizon telling the uplifting story of a young banker (Ken Whitelaw) and a middle-aged auctioneer (Gerry Duffy) who set themselves a challenge to run 32 marathons in 32 days in the 32 counties of Ireland with the aim to inspire people all over the country to go out and run their first ever marathons and raise funds as well as awareness for Autism Ireland.

Directed by Marcus Stewart and Marc O’Gleasain, the film came about when Marcus heard about this challenge through a friend and asked himself why would anyone want to put themselves through that? And so, Marcus explains, he “instantly knew that would make an interesting and powerful documentary story.”

Marcus and Marc then spent four years trying to get funding, but kept hitting brick walls. Everyone told them it looked like a great story but kept passing them on to someone else. In the end, Marcus says, “we just got fed up chasing people.”

With no budget, Marcus explains his approach to sculpting Gerry Duffy and Ken Whitelaw’s story into a finished documentary. “I got some of it filmed on a volunteer basis from some students looking for experience. After the event we filmed the guys who told the retrospective back story. The story is told through the voices that were there, and we had just enough amateur footage and photos combined with our own stuff to put the story together. It knits together seamlessly. This is all down to director/editor Marc O’Gleasain. His creative vision was what made it work as a film in the end.”

Marcus has had a working relationship with Marc O’Gleasain for over six years on the production side of things. “With this project”, Marcus explains, “it was my initial idea that I brought to him, but he took the reigns at a certain point and it would certainly still be on a shelf if he hadn’t taken it on. I knew I needed Marc for this as he is very strong on story structure. And this one was tricky to tell with so much amateur footage and archive, etc.

“Marc was generous to share the director title. I had the initial idea and ideas about how I wanted the film to look and feel from the start. Through the process Marc was certainly the one carving the story out of those rushes and in the end I have no problem saying it is more his film than mine. We worked together discussing different ways to tell the story, we both get on very well and understood the problems, so I would say it was a very good working relationship through the whole process. I’m delighted it got made in the end and I’m delighted Marc did such a good job with it.


“We both feel that stories should never be left on the shelf. Just go and do it was the attitude, probably Gerry and Ken’s inspiration here… They are both inspiring people. It’s made me think it’s important for all of us to pick our own challenge that defines us. We would all learn more about ourselves if we put ourselves through these extremes and I think that’s very important in life. Different people choose different things, for some it’s Everest, for these two guys it was running 32 consecutive marathons and raising 500,000 euro for Autism.”

The film is set to screen this weekend at the IFI and naturally Marcus is excited at the prospect. “I hope it gets a good turnout and that people see it and remember it. That’s why we did it in the end. You want to make films that have an impact on people and the big screen is so important for that.”

Marathon Men screens on Sunday, 14th December 2014 at 13.00 as part of the IFI’s Ireland on Sunday monthly showcase for new Irish film.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with directors Marcus Stewart and Marc O’Gleasain.

Tickets for Marathon Men are available now from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie