A new documentary following a running group for homeless people in the notorious area of downtown Los Angeles arrives in London for preview screenings this week, and the Big Issue is delighted to be on board as one of the film’s media partners.
Skid Row Marathon follows a running group formed by Craig Mitchell, a 61-year-old superior court judge who runs alongside homeless people and recovering addicts every week.
Judge Mitchell founded the group in 2011 after visiting the Midnight Mission in Los Angeles, which provides more than one million meals a year – alongside advice, shelter and help with issues around addiction – for some of the estimated 4,500 homeless people in Skid Row (an area of less than five square miles).
Recovery and running go hand in hand
As a keen runner himself, Judge Mitchell offered to lead the Midnight Mission’s residents on regular runs around Los Angeles. Filmmakers Gabi and Mark Hayes spent three years tracking the group’s progress – producing this inspirational documentary.
Skid Row Marathon will then be in cinemas nationwide for a special one-night-only release on May 9 – with tickets and information about screenings available here.
“The film was very important for our participants because it conveyed to them that their lives are worth chronicling, they have a story that other people need to hear,” says Judge Mitchell.
“Oftentimes, we try to avoid looking at people who are homeless or addicted to drugs. We don’t want to know their stories. The film provided the exact opposite.”
A combination of health and fitness, the routine of regular early morning runs, and the camaraderie the team inspires has enabled the runners featured in the film to make giant strides towards leaving homelessness behind.
“I used to run when I was younger until my addiction wouldn’t allow me to do anything,” says Ben Shirley, a musician whose addictions led him to Skid Row. “Recovery and running go hand in hand.”
Runners from the group have now competed at marathons in Accra, Rome and Jerusalem, as well as in LA.
Last year, 27,000 people worldwide earned an income selling street papers, making a total of £23.4 million.
Judge Craig Mitchell also runs the London Marathon on April 22, raising money for The Big Issue Foundation, his own Skid Row Running Club and The Running Charity – who use the transformative powers of running to help young homeless people in the UK.
“It makes perfect sense. We are all engaged in the same enterprise,” says Mitchell of his chosen charities.
“I have run about 70 marathons so far. And if you have run New York or Boston, there is an electricity in the air. I expect to counter that in London – I couldn’t be more thrilled to be running.”
Skid Row Marathon previews and screenings – including a live Q&A with Judge Mitchell at O2 Cineworld on April 21.