After reading about this documentary in the Guardian, centring on a town in Ethiopia producing incredible athletes year after year, I jumped at the chance to see the film last night. While many cinemas are unfortunately not showing it, the PictureHouse family and Brixton Ritzy in particular didn’t disappoint.
Bekoji is a town in the highlands of Ethiopia which over the last few decades has produced some of the greatest distance athletes in the world. These include: Tirunesh Dibaba, Olympic and World Champion in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres; Kenenisa Bekele, also Olympic and World Champion in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres; and Derartu Tulu, Olympic and World Champion in the 10,000 metres. This is an incredible feat for any region, let alone a tiny town in the highlands of Ethiopia where having enough food to eat and shoes to wear are by no means guaranteed.
The documentary focuses on two young girls from Bekoji, Hawii and Alemi, over a period of three years as they try and fulfil their dreams of becoming professional athletes. This is balanced by the view of a modernising Bekoji, with the introduction of mobile phone towers and an asphalt road replacing mud tracks.
The film is incredibly touching, with charming and relatable young people telling us that with hard work and a little bit of luck they know they can achieve their dreams. And truth be told, I want nothing more than to watch them win medals at a world stage.
Coach, who has developed more Olympic medallists than some countries, is humble, happy and hopeful, telling the Guardian that all he really wished for was a motorbike so he could keep up with his runners while training. And at the speed these kids are running at, who can blame him, someone get that man a motorbike.
Find out more about screenings and other ways to get involved at www.townofrunners.com and absolutely go and see it for yourself if you get the chance.