Town Of Runners: Going For Gold

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Words Hannah Pool

Bekoji, in the Ethiopian highlands has produced some of the world’s greatest long-distance runners and clocked up some serious Olympic hardware. Tirunesh Dibaba (double gold, Beijing 2008), world record holder Kenenisa Bekele  (gold, Athens and Beijing) and Derartu Tulu (gold, Barcelona and Sydney) all hail from this town in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, as do Fatuma Roba (gold, Atlanta) and Ejegayehu Dibaba (silver, Athens).

Town of Runners, a moving and insightful new documentary by award-winning filmmaker Jerry Rothwell, follows the stories of Hawii and Alemi as they train around the clock, trying to add their names to Bekoji’s roll of fame. “It’s not only a film about running but about being a teenager in a country that is in transition.  Because Bekoji has such an incredible history of producing world-class long-distance runners, this drives the girls’ ambitions,” says Rothwell, who grew up in Kenya in the 1970s and cites great East African runners of that time, such as Kip Keino and Mike Boit, as his childhood heroes.

The girls at the centre of the film are too young to compete in the London 2012 Olympics but Bekoji will be well represented, with Bekele and Dibaba defending their Olympic golds from Beijing. Get ready to hear a lot of the Ethiopian national anthem.

Town of Runners [Dogwoof] out in UK cinemas April 20.

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