Last night I treated myself to an evening of runspiration at the UK screening of Skid Row Marathon. If you haven’t heard about it, Skid Row is a docu-film that tells the story of a High Court Judge, Craig Mitchell, who starts a running club based at a mission centre in Skid Row. Skid Row is an area of downtown Los Angeles that houses the biggest population of homeless in the country and is famous for extreme poverty and wide-spread substance abuse. The film shows the effect that the running club has on its members, and how something as simple as just running can genuinely be not only life changing, but life saving.
Throughout the film we are confronted with Judge Craig’s discomfort that a large part of his job involves handing out multiple life sentences, with the knowledge that many of these men will never leave prison. These sentences are not given lightly, but as he states, “one horrendous act does not define a person in his entirety”. It seems that the running club is his counter-balance, an opportunity to intervene before either he or they are put in this position. It is striking that the running club appears to be as vital to Judge Craig’s life as it is to its members, even though they are worlds apart.
As well as being powerful and thought provoking it is also in parts laugh-out-loud funny. The characters are all deeply honest, and whilst most of us are not and never will be in their position, they are also highly relatable. Some of them go on to do incredible things; some of them don’t make it. But they run on.
It was an emotional watch for me, given my own journey towards marathon running (you can read about this here if you like). But I found that I was struck with the realisation that running was more important to me than I’d even realised. It has gradually and gently changed my life drastically. It gives me an escape, time to be on my own with my thoughts, or without my thoughts. But more than that, it has challenged me. For the first time in my life I am proud of my body and what I can achieve with it. I want to look after this body, and nourish it, so that I can do more. Without realising it, it has given me self-belief and self-love.
If you get to the end of this film and don’t want to head straight out of the cinema and put your running shoes on, I’d be amazed.