The Secret Marathon

The Cause

We are creating a feature length documentary called The Secret Marathon. The film follows the stories of six people who completed the Marathon of Afghanistan in November, 2016. The project began in 2015 when legendary marathon runner, philanthropist and Cochrane resident Martin Parnell was recuperating from a life threatening blood clot on his brain. While in hospital and unable to walk, he read about the first Afghan woman to participate in a marathon in her own country. Martin vowed that if he regained his health he would run in the 2nd annual Marathon of Afghanistan in 2016, in solidarity with those who are fighting for their freedom to run. Martin invited filmmaker Kate McKenzie to join him to document the journey. For Kate, the only way to do that was to have the courage to run alongside the women for whom running has become an act of defiance against violence and discrimination. With Martin’s guidance, Kate ran over 800km in 4 months, preparing to run her first Afghanistan.
The Secret Marathon follows their journey to Afghanistan. When Martin and Kate arrive in the week before the marathon, they meet four other marathon participants and the film begins to take remarkable shape. We meet Drew, an American military veteran twice deployed in Afghanistan, running to heal the effects of post- traumatic stress disorder; Mahsa, the first female Iranian to run an ultra-marathon across the Iranian desert, running to promote peace and solidarity in the region; Kubra, an ambassador for sports and outspoken Afghan advocate for women’s rights, who trained as best she could despite daily threats of violence against her for simply wanting to run, and the Taliban bombing her school, where she was training; and Nelofar, the leader of Afghanistan’s first women’s running club, participating in the marathon because she dreams of living in a country where all women can feel safe to run. Against the breathtaking backdrop of the Afghan mountains, we watch as each competitor faces his and her own mental, physical, and social challenges to complete the Marathon of Afghanistan. Their stories and struggles show us what bravery, resiliency, and hope look like. They teach us about courage, perseverance, and unwavering faith in the possibility of freedom for all.

To see the trailer or to find more information about the film, please visit:

Who Will it Benefit?

The Secret Marathon is a dramatic and visually beautiful film about courageous people, and because of this our aim is to use the film to engage with young people about the themes that its stories raise. We want to make The Secret Marathon a catalyst for dialogue and teaching about social justice issues including human rights, women’s rights, gender equality, freedom, physical and mental well-being. The film's complex characters, their depth and humour, the drama of training for and running a marathon in war torn Afghanistan, make it accessible and fascinating to watch. We believe that the Canadian community will embrace it. The Secret Marathon has the potential to benefit thousands of Canadians in the South Community. If it is distributed on a national television network (we are currently in talks with the CBC), it will benefit even more people. We intend to distribute the completed film in schools throughout Southern Alberta, through workshops and screenings where it can support and stimulate conversations, and where it can inspire positive change. We have already received interest from a distributor specializing in the educational market, and commitment from a foundation in Cochrane, Alberta to fund screenings for students once the film is complete. This is the ‘pay it forward’ or ‘ripple’ effect of The Secret Marathon. After the film has been produced we intend to create ongoing initiatives including an online presence, educational elements within schools and even future marathons that promote women’s safety while running. With the film’s success, we hope to provide resources and programs based around its themes, where those interested can learn more about human rights, gender equality, physical and mental well-being, and ways to promote these values in their own communities. Should the film make a profit, we have pledged 20% of the net profits to initiatives that will facilitate educational accessibility. We are committing an additional 20% of any net profits to the Marathon of Afghanistan and other organizations that promote equality, sports, and mental health.