Culture on the Run Film

Running for Office – From the Boston Marathon to Kenyan Politics

New York is in marathon-mode. The route-markers are up, the streets are filled with runners getting in their last-miles-to-go, and the air is turning into that crisp coolness that will be felt come the morning of November 2nd.

It feels a little strange not to be running the New York City Marathon this year, when, for the past two years, planning for it has been part of my life around this time of year. I actually caught myself this past weekend forgetting I’ve already run my race. Clearly my body is feeling back to its usual self if I am having this kind of thought. The Chicago Marathon was but a week ago!

Mine may be done, but I’m still in marathon-mood, as I get ready to cheer on those who will be running NYC Marathon. I’ve been watching marathon movies, comparing Jared Leto’s version of Steve Prefontaine (Prefontaine) to Billy Crudup’s (Without Limits), and reading The Oatmeal’s fantastic picture book, The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances.

Last week, I saw a film I wish I’d seen before I ran Chicago, but I’m glad to have seen it nonetheless.

Transcend is a documentary about Kenyan runner Wesley Korir who won the 2012 Boston Marathon. It tells his story – how he came to be a runner, how his talents brought him to the US, and how he ended up with the desire to move into politics, even after a disheartening visit back to Kenya saw him vow he wouldn’t ever return. It’s the kind of documentary that has runners fascinated – what makes Kenyans so darn good? – but it’s also the kind that will have even those who’re not fans of pounding the pavement interested. Korir’s story of his own quest to make a difference in the world will speak to anyone who wants to leave the place just a little better off, and I defy anyone watching the film not to be inspired to move for good in some way or another. Plus, one cannot help but marvel at watching someone with such skill and grace in his training.

As a runner and an African, I was particularly drawn to Korir’s story. With all the corruption and chaos that exists on the continent (and indeed everywhere!), the future can sometimes seem so bleak, and the sense of being able to make a difference feels overwhelming and slim. Similarly, at one time or another, I’ve asked myself what the point really is of my running all these miles. Korir, and those who’re interviewed alongside him in the doccie, like Malcolm Gladwell and Runner’s World‘s Alex Hutchinson, explore all this and more.

At a screening of the film, hosted by Nike NYC, I asked Korir what lessons he’s learnt from running that he’s put into use being a politician. He told me perseverance is the biggest thing he’s taken with him. “Just like when you think you can’t keep going in the marathon – that’s when you need to keep going even more. So many people would be more successful if they just stuck it out,” he said. One foot in front of the other. Strip everything away, it’s the most basic and yet most effective lesson of running.

Running the streets of New York with Wesley Korir and a couple of my favourite people. Pic: Paulsta Wong/Nike
Running the streets of New York with Wesley Korir and a couple of my favourite people. Pic: Paulsta Wong/Nike

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Korir runs (ahem) a fantastic charity that helps budding young runners, so I highly recommend checking out how you can host a screening of the film and help him carry on the sterling work he’s doing. One step at a time.

Transcend is available on iTunes and also in a special Runner’s edition deal. 

[Top pic: Transcend]

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