f MENTAL: Kenya's Legacy of Natural-Born Runners

MENTAL: Kenya's Legacy of Natural-Born Runners

2024 COUP
Participant Gretchen Metsa

MENTAL: Kenya's Legacy of Natural-Born Runners


"MENTAL - The Kenyan School" is a documentary about passion and dedication to sport. It follows the journey of four Brazilian runners who train in the land of champions, the town of Iten in Kenya. More than portraying an experience, the film explores the social and cultural contexts that have helped transform this small rural village into the Mecca of one of the toughest and most competitive sports on the planet. A place that leaves a profound mark on those who come to run on its red dirt roads, life lessons that go far beyond running.

Africa, the cradle of countless precious things, is also home to a unique and incomparable phenomenon: people born with a boundless passion for running. Pedro Damasio's film, "MENTAL - the Kenyan School," depicts this very phenomenon in the Kenyan town of Iten. The documentary delves into the lives of athletes living in this mountainous town. It portrays the numerous challenges they face in their relentless pursuit of becoming champions and representing themselves and their country on the world stage. The undeniable charm of Iten attracts not only talented runners but also experienced coaches, creating a community that thrives to excellence.

“I was very privileged to come to a place that had such a potential… the running and athletics has been a huge part in growth of Iten. It has a huge impact on a local area.”

- Colm O’Connel, Missionary and a Coach

Reaching the pinnacle of athletic achievement requires more than just individual talent. A champion needs support and love from those around them. The community in Iten embodies this truth perfectly. Oasis Lily's Restaurant, living up to its name for its contribution and kindness to the town, treats these supporters with delicious local cuisine.

Their path to championship glory is arduous, demanding them to overcome numeorus obstacles. Being a champion requires not only physical strength but also mental endurance. This understanding creates deep respect for those people who have previously represented and honored their country. The film provides a glimpse into this respect as the runners visit Kipchoge Keino, Kenya's first Olympic champion who secured the country's first gold medal in 1968 and whose name now graces a Kenyan stadium.

“(The Kenyans) are used to difficulties. Sometimes I think that they attribute their success to the fact that (they) came from having demanding, tough background.”

- Colm O’Connel, Missionary and a Coach

Running is an integral part of the daily life of Kenyans. They run from house to house, shop to shop and even town to town. Running is in their blood and in their minds - a key factor in why many Kenyan Olympic champions are remembered around the world.

In Kenya, we believe that whatever you do must be coming from your mind - mind drives everything.