|Lopez Lomong’s Running For My Life (photo – T. Nelson)
I recently reread Lopez Lomong‘s harrowing yet inspiring autobiography, Running For My Life. Lomong escaped the killing fields of South Sudan during the Second Sudanese Civil War only to spend the remainder of his childhood in the squalor of a refugee camp in Kenya. He was first kidnapped and taken from his family at the age of six while celebrating an outdoor church service. He was abducted by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and warehoused in a prison along with other captured boys (‘The Lost Boys of Sudan’) who lived and frequently died from the brutal conditions at the camp.
Life in the refugee camp was an improvement over prison, but it was still unfathomable in its unsanitary conditions and its famine-level provisions. While there he managed to briefly break free of the camp to the home of a nearby farmer, where Lomong and several of his fellow refugees were able to watch Michael Johnson‘s exploits at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. It was there that Lomong made the decision to one day become an Olympian and follow the steps of the record-breaking American sprinter.
Without giving too much of the compelling story away, he eventually was resettled in the US through an opportunity provided by Catholic Charities. From there, his relentless work ethic coupled with unflagging modesty and determination led him to a stellar high school career in Tully, New York. He ultimately arrived on the campus of Northern Arizona University and qualified for the US Olympic team. He represented the nation at the 2008 Beijing Games in the 1500m and represented his adopted nation’s athletes when he was named the flag-bearer for the US contingent at the opening ceremonies. – TF