Runner is one of those documentaries that explores a story you vaguely recall hearing about but aren’t quite sure when – in this case, the journey of Guor Mading Maker (formerly known as Guor Marial), a Sudanese refugee and marathon runner who set out to become South Sudan’s first Olympic athlete. His is a story of determination and drive that speaks to the endurance of the human spirit.
Guor’s first experience ‘running’ wasn’t for sport. He fled war-torn Sudan at the age of eight, to escape a fate that claimed the lives of several siblings. He eventually found a home in the U.S., attended high school in Concord, New Hampshire, was an all-American runner at Iowa State, and qualified for the 2012 London Olympics in his first ever marathon.
The documentary leans heavily on interviews with Guor to track his journey and explain the obligation he felt to represent South Sudan in the Olympics once the region gained independence from Sudan (in east-central Africa) in 2011. The narrative gets a bit wonky at times but the underlying themes – about national pride, conflict, family, persistence, and finding advocates for your cause – make it an interesting watch, especially if you belong to a running club, or work for an NGO.
Guor is now a member of the U.S. Air Force’s World Class Athlete Program and is training for a spot as a distance runner in the (postponed) 2020 Olympic games in Japan. So his story could be far from over.
Runner is being released via Virtual Cinema on June 19, 2020 (to coincide with World Refugee Day on June 20th). The website runnerdoc.com has a ‘running’ list of ways to watch.