Book Review: Running For My Life by Lopez Lomong

I read.  A lot.  Most books that I read are “good”. I finish them and move on to the next, remembering details here and there if a friend brings it up in conversation. For the most part though, I never think twice about what I’ve read.  Every once in a while, a book stays with me for weeks (The Hunger Games), months (Unbearable Lightness), even years (Mark of the Lion series, The Catcher in the Rye).   Running for My Life: One Lost Boy’s Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games, by Lopez Lomong with Mark Tabb is one of those books that will be with me for a long time. 

The story opens in the tiny Sudanese village of Kimotong with Lopez Lomong going to church with his family, a typical Sunday. Only this Sunday, rebel soldiers invaded the service and kidnapped all of the children, throwing them into the back of trucks and taking them to a camp where they would train to be soldiers.  Lopez was 6 years old.

With the help of three older boys, Lopez escaped the camp by running, quite literally, for his life.  For three days the boys ran, hoping to find their way home but instead found themselves in Kenya, where border guards sent them to a refugee camp. Food was scarce, school consisted of drawing in the dirt with a stick and sleep meant sharing a small tent with ten other boys. The high point of the week came when the U.N. workers who ran the facility dumped their trash and the boys “went after the garbage like hungry hyenas fighting over a gazelle carcass.” Lomong’s only escape was soccer, and in order to be allowed to play, he had to run around the perimeter of the entire camp first – 30 kilometers or 18 miles, in bare feet.  Every. Day.  Amazing.

When Lopez was 15 years old, boys in the camp started talking about something called the Olympics. Lopez had never seen a television and had no idea what the Olympics were, but when several of his friends walked five miles to watch the Games on a grainy black-and-white set powered by a car battery, he went along.  Lopez paid the owner of the TV all of the money he had, which allowed him to watch one event – the 400-meter dash, and the winner was the great American sprinter Michael Johnson. Lomong thought to himself on the walk home: “In my mind’s eye I watched Michael Johnson run his race over and over again and I knew that someday, I, too, would run in the Olympics. I wanted to run with those same three letters across my chest: USA.”

{Source: USA TODAY}

I won’t go any further than to tell you that eight years later, Lopez represented America in the Beijing Olympics, making the semifinals in the 1,500-meter race and given the honor of flag-bearer in the opening ceremonies. If you want to know how he got there, you’ll just have to read the book!  (Ugh, so frustrating isn’t it!!!)

{Source: New York Post}

Lopez talks in detail about what running was for him, during the days in the refugee camp. “When I ran, I was in control of my life,” he writes. “I ran for me.”  I understand that completely.  I, fortunately, have never known what it’s like to be truly broken, hungry or scared.  But I do feel like running is my escape, my quiet time to pray and think through problems; a place where there are no demands on me but to put one foot in front of the other.  In that respect, Lopez and I are the same.

What I loved about this book is that it was written so well and simply, with Lopez’s sweet humor and humility.  I was overcome with emotion MANY times with how positive Lopez stayed through all of his struggles in the Sudan, coming to America, and even upon returning to his home years later.  This child was ripped from his family, living in filth and on the verge of starvation for days on end, yet never gave up hope that he was meant for something far greater. His faith in God was a constant in his life, and continues to drive him as he fulfills his dreams.  This boy, this man is a true inspiration. 

{Source: Lopez Lomong on Facebook}

Whether you are a runner or not, this book will change your life.  I must admit that before reading Running For My Life, I was 100% ignorant to what is going on in the Sudan.  I’d never heard of “the lost boys” or the constant conflict in South Sudan, but now I will never forget.  If you are interested in learning more about 4 South Sudan, a partnership between the Lopez Lomong Foundation and World Vision, click this link:

What was the last amazing book you read?


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