Set in the beautiful backdrop of Bekoji, a small highland town in Ethiopia, director Jerry Rothwell takes a three year journey through the lives of some aspiring athletes. The small town of only 16,000 inhabitants has a phenomenal record in producing world-class long distance runners that have gone on to win medals at various Olympic games, including Tirunesh Dibaba, Kenenisa Bekele and Derartu Tulu.
The documentary follows the story of two young hopefulls, good friends Hawii and Alemi. As their training gets underway with the aid of comical character coach Sentayehu, we see the small town undergo some changes of its own. New roads funded by China and other developments are beautifully narrated by a young boy who owns a roadside tuck shop and monitors the changes with apprehension.
Town of Runners offers an insight into the root of this sport and raw ambition to become a champion. While it is implied that the children of this town literally want to run away from Bekoji, their focus and discipline is admirable, with some waking up before school to complete a long-distance run. Comic and charming, this inspirational film and the people that humanise the story are a must-see.
Read our interview with Ethiopian athlete Mohammed Aman, who hails from the town of Asela, just 50km north of Bekoji