As the book itself professes it is neither a chronicle of the hardships illuminating the topography of Africa not an inspirational tale that has at its crux, track and field events. This is a true story of a courageous boy in Sudan whose childhood was lost to meaningless hatred and pure violence before determination, chance and luck contrived in a magnificently mysterious manner to enable him reclaim his life.
From eating his best meal from a garbage dump in a refugee camp in Kenya, to being the proud flag bearer of the United States contingent in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Lopez Lomong has faced more trials and tribulations in his short life span (till now) than what an average adult is more likely to face throughout his/her life. Viciously separated from his parents by separatist rebels in South Sudan, Lopez Lomong was abducted from a church to be recruited in a militant army. With the aid of three brave colleagues, he made an audacious escape from the army camp before finding himself in a refugee camp at Kakuma in Kenya. Life at the refugee camp was hardly better than what was a miserable existence in the separatist camp in South Sudan. Children stricken with malaria and perishing by the dozens, mad runs to the garbage dump every Tuesday to scour and hunt for left over scraps of food, learning the basics of English by writing on the soil with sticks were a few astonishingly lamentable travails which a young Lopez had to endure; conditions which people in developed nations can even bear to envisage. But what kept Lopez’s body and soul functioning was an insatiable desire to run. Running was his chosen and dearest method of venting out his agony and ecstasy. Just to play a game of soccer he would be ordered to lap the entire perimeter of the camp (due to an overwhelming number of boys whose desire to play was constrained by the smallness of the ground). Every single day Lopez lapped the circuit spanning – 30 kilometers!
A chance encounter with a battered television acquainted Lopez with the Olympics in general (Sydney 2000) and the electric Michael Johnson in particular. From that minute onwards, Lopez was consumed by a burning desire to emulate the exploits of Michael Johnson. As fate and divinity (according to the devout Lopez who went on to be named Joseph post his baptism into the Christian faith) would have it, an opportunity to migrate to the States arose and Lopez grabbed the chance with both hands.
Lopez along with his collaborator Mark Tabb make a fine job of providing inspiration to an untold number of population suffering the effects of civil war, poverty and illiteracy. They exhort unrelentingly the fact that hope is a commodity that should never be viewed as in short supply. Where there is a will there is always a way.
“Running for My Life…” – A race deservedly won by Lopez Lomong!