Mira Rai: The Girl Who Runs On Happiness

How can you define Mira Rai? She’s a former child soldier, an ultrarunning star athlete, a trailblazer for women in Nepal.



Jonny Madderson & Jono Stevens


Rory Calder

Running time

16 minutes

Our Judges say:

An inspiring story of a woman loving what she does whilst challenging cultural stereotypes.

Jimmy Hyland

A quite extraordinary tale of how a young Nepalese woman used her incredible talent for trail running for the benefit of her community.

Paul Hodgson Music Judge

Mira Rai’s path has taken her from an isolated Nepalese village, to becoming a child soldier, to being one of the greatest ultra runners in the world. She’s a trailblazer for women in Nepal: challenging convention, forgoing tradition and forging her own path. As soon as we heard Mira’s story, we knew it was the perfect fit for our ‘wildcard’ series - celebrating athletes who have taken the road less travelled. Growing up in a remote Nepalese mountain village, Mira’s path was mapped out in front of her. She would marry at a young age, have children, and work the farm - just as her parents and grandparents had before her. But this map was not what Mira wanted. Instead, she decided to run away and join the Maoist army as a child soldier. She did not see combat but instead spent three years learning the art of karate and running in battalion races - beating both the girls and boys in the camp. Mira felt like she had found her place in the world so when Nepal signed a peace accord in 2006 and she was released from the army, she struggled to find somewhere she belonged. She moved to Kathmandu but found the big city overwhelming and with her money quickly running out Mira feared she would be forced to return to her village or move abroad to find factory work. But then fortune turned her way. She heard of a long-distance race taking place in the city and signed up. Despite having no training and wearing unsuitable shoes, she was the only woman to complete the 50km course, coming just two hours behind the male winner. She’s not looked back since. Family, tradition and expectations - Mira defied them all, and yet was also defined by them. Using a mixture of archive, UCG and historic reconstruction this film celebrates not only Mira’s choice but her character too. Relentlessly positive, we wanted to show Mira as ‘the girl who runs on happiness’, and that this emotion has helped shape her story, from child soldier to star of the ultra running world.