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Runner goes the distance

Updated: Sep 14, 2020

Both the grim and bright sides of humanity show up in the documentary Runner about one of Sudan’s Lost Boys war victims. Avid running enthusiasts might already know many details about Guor Maker, forced to literally run for his life during the civil war that split northern and southern Sudan. Emigrating to the United States, he found his way into the track community and an unpredictable set of circumstances leading him to the Olympics.

Filmmaker Bill Gallagher captures the viewer’s attention with a media conference where reporters show their fascination for Guor’s remarkable story. Though not the most visual of sports, running provides movement for the piece, while a wide range of interview subjects add perspective, also demonstrating many instances of warm-spirited generosity as people step in to help a newcomer in the United States. Animation slips in as Guor recounts his early years in a Sudanese village; later the real location shows up in a moving family reunion scene when Guor briefly returns to the home and land he loves.

Catching such moments proves an emotional coup for the film, which gains depth from many corners. The tragedy of war hits deeply, with Guor forced to run from soldiers and find his way to a safer place. Added complexity comes from several other issues including the politics of Olympic Committee decisions. Filmmaker Gallagher follows many events as they unfold, lacking any certainty that his story will end with typical sports movie triumph.

What happens debunks the cliché that quote “winning is everything.” Just getting to the race earns its own rewards. Focusing on the journey rather than finish, the documentary runs well as motivating inspiration for many walks—or, make that runs—of life. The documentary Runner, which opened in a few theaters last week, now streams on many platforms, with options for donating the viewing fee to different charities. (

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