As I browsed the titles for this year’s Thin Line Fest documentaries, one caught my eye immediately. The first words in the description for Transcend were, “long-distance running.” That’s all I needed to read to know that my husband and I would both want to add this one to our must-see list for Thin Line. Anyone who knows me and my husband is hyper-aware that we love running, because we never shut up about it, always trying to get our friends, family and officemates to run.

Transcend tells the story of Wesley Korir, a man who escaped the poverty of Kenya and came to America. His natural talent for running and hard work training paid off, winning him quite a list of medals including:

  • 2009 Los Angeles Marathon: 1st place
  • 2010 Los Angeles Marathon: 1st place
  • 2010 Chicago Marathon: 4th place
  • 2011 Chicago Marathon: 2nd place
  • 2012 Boston Marathon: 1st place

His accolades in the sport are impressive, no doubt. But what really draws you into the movie is Wesley Korir’s spirit. He is humble and wants nothing more than to make a difference in the place where he grew up. His winnings from the Boston Marathon alone earned him $150,000. He takes his prize money and brings it back home to Kenya.

Returning to the squalor back home, Wesley says, “When I see all this, running is nothing. That pain you go through in running is nothing compared to this.” So he uses his earnings as a top marathon runner to help the people of Kenya. And he doesn’t simply give people a handout of money. He builds for them, so they can sustain for themselves. For example, he planted rows and rows of corn, so its harvest brings in money year after year for his family.

But for Wesley, using his earnings from winning races to improve his community wasn’t enough. He felt a calling for something bigger and decided that running for Kenyan parliament was his best bet at making a bigger impact to improve life for the people of his home country. This is the part of the film I didn’t think I’d care for, thinking anything political would be dry and uninteresting. However, I was pleasantly surprised with it and was not left bored. Wesley’s running career continues through his political campaign, squeezing in training runs when he can. After the political campaign is over, he returns to America for the Chicago marathon to try again at the race that bested him the year before. I’ll let you watch the movie yourself to see how it turns out.

One of my favorite takeaways from the film was when they described what makes Wesley a great runner. “The people that have had a hard life when they were a child,” they explained, “It looks like a hard life, but that’s a part of training. It’s a part of running.” I think that’s something we can all admire. Looking at the adversity you face as a challenge to rise above and become something better, whether it’s in running or school or anything in life. If you look at it that way, you’ll take those hardships head-on, knowing you’ll be stronger because of it. Don’t get discouraged when life is tough. Grit your teeth, keep your chin up, and power your way through it. In the end, you’ll be a better person because of it.

Transcend will be playing at Thin Line Fest on Sunday, February 22 at 10:15 p.m. at the Campus Theatre. I know all my buddies from the Oak St. Drafthouse Social Run will want to see this doc as much as I did!