Imagine being kidnapped from church as a 6-year-old. Imagine you are thrown in the back of a truck along with other kidnapped children and taken to a military prison for the purpose of fighting for a cause you do not understand. And that running is your only way out.
Lopez Lomong does not need to imagine that scenario. He lived it. He was a Lost Boy of Sudan, an innocent victim of a brutal civil war raging in his home country. His story is real.
In 2008, Lopez made the United States Olympic team in the 1,500 meters, but this was far from the greatest or most important run of his life. Sixteen years earlier he and a few other boys escaped from the prison through a hole in the fence. They began a three day ultra marathon they had to win. Running for their lives through the dangerous African landscape, they would need to outrun starvation, dehydration, wild animals and enemy soldiers. They believed they were headed back to their villages in Southern Sudan but had gone the wrong direction and crossed the border into Kenya where they were taken into a refugee camp.
Lopez lived in the camp for 10 years. Conditions were hard and most days he only received one meal. Still he found the energy to run. Running had been his escape from prison and now it was his escape from the hard realities of his new life. His family assumed he was dead. Having no way to contact him, and knowing the harsh realities of the war, it was natural to assume that Lopez had been killed. He was alone in a sea of thousands of other lost boys and running to nowhere in particular.
When Lopez was 16 (2001) he got a chance to escape again. While attending school inside the refugee camp, he wrote an essay to the Catholic charities about what he would do if he had the chance to come to the United States. His essay was so moving it prompted the Rogers family in New York to sponsor him to come live with them in America and start a new life. The first thing Lopez wanted to do when he arrived at his new home? Run. The Rogers family provided Lopez with a second chance. They supported his passion for running and enrolled him in school as a 10th grader. After an extremely challenging yet successful high school career, Lopez graduated and accepted an offer to run for Northern Arizona University.
In the years that followed Lopez won NCAA championships and USA championships and earned an Olympic berth. But his success in running has not erased the memory of his life back in Sudan. He has been reunited with his biological parents and discovered that he has two younger brothers, Alex and Peter. He is fully aware of how fortunate he is to have two sets of parents and to be living in a place with safe drinking water and plenty to eat. Now it is his turn to give back.
In addition to raising funds to build a community center in Sudan to help other children affected by the war, Lopez has teamed up with 4 South Sudan to help provide clean drinking water, basic health care, education for children, and life saving nutrition to families in need. Lopez was lucky but many more lost children are in dire need.
The Lopez Lomong story and charity was brought to our attention by Olympian and American record holder Shalane Flanagan. We want to help Lopez help the children of Southern Sudan so we have teamed up with Shalane and Benefits of Giving to help share this story and raise funds for the 4 South Sudan project.
There are two ways you can help.
1. This week if you buy a copy of our book “Running the Edge” we will send you the book along with a signed Shalane Flanagan autograph card, and a free “Gone Running” sign from Benefits of Giving. (Domestic orders from this link only)
2. You can also support 4 South Sudan by buying a t-shirt or making a direct contribution on lopezlomong.com
It is impossible to tell the complete story of Lopez Lomong in one short blog. It would take a book to capture what he has been through.
Feel free to republish all or part of our blog to help spread the word and help Lopez Lomong continue his impressive run.