10 Movie Cops Who Could Have Been Good Runners

Two of my favorite topics are law enforcement and distance running.  So, this week let’s combine the two.  I’m going to list 10 movie cops and explain why I think they would have made good runners, and at what distance.  To conduct this study, I used a complicated algorithm that involved coffee, pistachios, and more coffee.  Here is the list in no particular order:

#10.  Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino in Heat)

Ultramarathon:  Not only was the movie itself incredibly long, but Hanna persevered in spite of taking on a competent gang of criminals and tacking relationship issues.  The final scene alone demonstrates his ability to give a race that final kick, even when handling a shotgun.  If only he could have inspired Val Kilmer to stay in shape.


#9.  Clarice Starling (Jody Foster in Silence of the Lambs)

Nighttime 5Ks:  No night vision goggles needed here.  She simply blows away the competition.

#8.  John McClane (Bruce Willis in Die Hard films)

Tough Mudder & Spartan Race:  Broken glass?  No problem.  Fire?  Please.  Walls to climb?  Air vents to crawl through?  Ledges to leap from?  Whatever.  McClane fights through injuries like few others and still manages to toss around some witty one-liners.  The fact that Die Hard 2 was totally ridiculous and those planes could have landed at any number of D.C. / Baltimore / Richmond airports, is irrelevant.


#7.  Ed Exley (Guy Pearce in L.A. Confidential)

10K:  This is one of my all-time favorite movie cops.  Constantly underrated and underestimated, he chugs along and lulls his competition to sleep until the final sprint.  Sure he’s overly-concerned with trophies and medals, but when push comes to shove… he’ll shoot you.

#6.  Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand in Fargo)

Frigid 5Ks & Turkey Trots:  Not snow, nor sleet, nor wood chippers can keep this Chief of Police from going the full distance.  An inspiration to pregnant runners everywhere, Minnesota’s Gunderson puts the “aye” in race.


#5.  Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves in Speed)

The Mile:  One of the most obvious choices due to the movie title.  He was probably a good sprinter in his younger day, but drifted to the mile.  Fun fact:  He never takes public transportation or a shuttle to any event.  Never.

#4.  Donnie Brasco (Johnny Depp in… well, Donnie Brasco)

Half-Marathon and Marathon Relays:  Because he’s the ultimate team player.  Or is he?

#3.  William Somerset (Morgan Freeman in Seven)

Any race he wants:  The man is a phenomenon because he could narrate his own distance race and make it sound extraordinary even if he was running in dead last place while eating a donut.

#2.  Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones in No Country for Old Men)

Half-Marathon:  He’d do the full, but he’s retiring soon.  He’s a formidable competitor in the Texas heat despite his constant disappointment with the world.  You’d be well-advised to avoid trying to strike up a conversation with him during an event.

#1.  Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner in The Untouchables)

Marathon:  This character’s lines at the end of the movie tell the story.  In court with Capone he yells, “Never stop.  Never stop fighting ‘till the fight is done.  Then at the very end of the movie he answers a reporter’s question by saying, “I think I’ll have a drink.”

Name one marathoner who hasn’t been heard saying those phrases.

Who would you add to this list?  Comment below!

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

Twitter @JJHensleyauthor


An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.



In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.


Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air


 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

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8 thoughts on “10 Movie Cops Who Could Have Been Good Runners

    1. J.J. Hensley Post author

      Found your other page. I’d “follow” if I could figure out how (I’m not great with anything but WordPress). But, I’ll be sure to check in from time to time. Thanks!

  1. Jesse McClain

    Leslie Nielson as Frank in the Naked Gun Series. He would head out for a jog in the park only to find himself in the middle of a 10K. Then, as he crossed the finish, he finds out he won his age group. All this, while wearing a headband and leggings for his varicose veins.


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