Director: Mark Hayes
A criminal court judge starts a running club on L.A.’s skid row, where he trains a motley group of homeless people to run international marathons. (Source: IMDb)
We’re in a society which is keen to shun any of those who blemish the idealistic notions of a “perfect” community, and this wonderful documentary is jogging steadily in to challenge that idea. Skid Row Marathon has a tangible sense of hope running throughout it, and the journey those featured embark on, is a lot longer than those 26.2 miles!
We first meet Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell as he passes a sentence of 70+ years to someone. With his square jaw and sinewy frame, he cuts a slightly imposing figure, but as we get to know him over the course of this documentary, we discover that behind the austere facade, there is a kindly and deeply compassionate man who has a heart to see change in the poverty stricken neighbourhoods on his doorstep.
Working alongside an organisation called The Midnight Mission, Judge Mitchell starts up a running club, made up of Skid Row residents, former addicts, alcoholics and reformed criminals. This unlikely band of runners, helmed by the Judge, take on international marathons, the physical, psychological and emotional transformation that occurs as a result, is where the beautiful power of this documentary lies.
Coming from all walks of life, and each with their own heart-breaking story, the film demonstrates the growth of the running club across its course, gradually introducing more characters to the fold. Warm, funny, and touching in equal measure, Skid Row Marathon is a quiet and considered documentary that finds inspiration in the unlikeliest of places.
The narrative never veers into preachy territory, and it instead wisely lets the stories – and people – speak for themselves. Exploring the multitude of benefits that come – not just from running – but a unified and deeply caring support network, is one which is so inspiring that it might just tempt you to pick up your running shoes afterwards.
The sign of a truly great documentary is one that compels you to feel so deeply and compassionately towards its subjects that it will have the power to move you to tears one moment, and make you want to stand and applaud in the next; Skid Row Marathon is one such documentary.
I saw this movie and you should too. This is easily one of the most accessible and inspiring documentaries you’ll see, and whilst beautifully simplistic in its storytelling and style, it will instill in you the sense that there is some good in the world after all. Aligning the journey of a recovering addict with that of the sheer physical strength required to run a marathon, makes for an incredible, motivating, and deeply inspiring watch.
Skid Row Marathon is showing in select UK cinemas on the 9th May only! Find your nearest screening right here.