9th May 2018 (UK One Night Only Theatrical showing)
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.
Less than 10 miles from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, there’s a section of Los Angeles which is about as far from the image of America portrayed in movies as it gets. You’ve probably heard of it: it’s called Skid Row and is known for containing one of the largest stable populations of homeless people in the United States.
Skid Row Marathon tells the uplifting true story of Supreme Court Judge Craig Mitchell as he leads a running group. But this is no ordinary ensemble of athletes – the members are all from the streets of the notorious Skid Row and are battling drink and/or drug addiction. The film follows five of the runners, revealing their heart-breaking stories of how they reached their lowest points and the tough journey taken to get to where they are now.
As inspiring figures go, Judge Mitchell is unequivocally one of the most motivating personalities I’ve ever seen. His heart is made of pure gold, and I’m certain he’d give it away in an instant if it meant saving another life. This man has been a light in the darkness for dozens of addicts by being there for them when they wrongly believe the world has given up on them; quite simply, he’s the Judge who doesn’t.
He frequently reflects upon the burdensome nature of his vocation and is fully aware of the long-reaching consequences of his courtroom verdicts and his wife theorizes that Craig leads the running club to “counterweight the task of having to sentence people to life in prison.” It certainly is an understandable explanation, but I personally believe the truth is far simpler: he’s that rare kind of soul that sincerely and selflessly wants the best for everyone, especially those who have been dealt with the roughest of cards.
The runners themselves deserve praise for their dedication and discipline to the activity too. These people, who by their own admission, had no control over their lives at one point are now more focused than ever and their commitment to the marathon training and their perseverance on the arduous road to recovery is an absolute joy to watch.
Alas, their past cannot be easily unwritten and there are many occasions where they are held back for their criminal history, including attempts by Judge Mitchell to take the runners overseas for marathons. It’s disheartening to see people genuinely trying to better themselves only to be shackled by a system that rather stubbornly only sees them as a statistic. Fortunately, there are people like Judge Craig Mitchell around to give them the second chances that they so desperately deserve.
It’s these personal emotional expeditions which make Skid Row Marathon essential viewing. Their tribulations drive home the fragile nature of life and how easy it is to stray from sobriety. They come from all walks of life; there’s Ben, a rock star who came to LA to ‘make it big’, Rebecca a single mother of one, Rafael a reformed gang member on parole after being incarcerated for 28 years, Mody from Senegal who travelled to the US on a student visa, and David a wonderfully talented but painfully troubled artist.
Unsurprisingly then, Skid Row Marathon doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of addiction. Yes, these people are using running as rehabilitation but there’s no sugar-coating the fact it’s not a miracle cure; the struggle is real, ongoing and the frighteningly legitimate prospect of relapsing is always just around the next corner.
Nonetheless, Skid Row Marathon is an astonishingly inspirational picture. There’s a very high likelihood that after watching you’ll become more grateful of the things you take for granted and potentially feel invigorated to make positive changes in not just your own life but also of those less fortunate than yourself.
We all need to be more like Judge Craig Mitchell
Doesn't shy away from the harsh realities which come with addition recovery
Will make you take less things for granted