Ex Libris: Running for My Life

At the age of 6, Lopez Lomong was kidnapped 

by rebel soldiers while he and his family attended an outdoor church service in southern Sudan. It was 1991, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army was engaged in a desperate civil war against the government; so desperate that the rebelling army resorted to kidnapping boys for soldier recruits from the people for whom they were supposed to be fighting. Lomong was one among countless other “lost boys” in the Second Sudanese Civil War. 

Lomong’s autobiography is a story of truly miraculous survival and ultimate triumph as he chronicles his amazing escape from the rebel camp followed by successive hours upon hours of literally running for his life. Eventually, he reached the Kenyan border and was taken to a refugee camp filled with others whose lives were destroyed by the war in Sudan. For the next nine years, he survived on one meager meal a day, supplemented once a week by garbage from the UN compound. Soccer was the one distraction afforded to the refugees, and most days Lomong ran around the entire 18-mile perimeter of the camp in bare feet before playing. “When I ran, I was in control of my life,” he writes. “I ran for me.” 

His life took a new direction when, in the year 2000, he and several of his friends walked five miles to watch the Olympic Games on a grainy black-and-white TV set powered by a car battery. He had never seen a television or heard of the Olympics, but when he watched Michael Johnson win the 400-meter dash, a dream was born. “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,” he remembers of his walk back home. “I wanted to run with those same three letters across my chest: USA.”

This impossible dream was a reality eight years later. Soon after watching the games, the United States decided to accept 3,500 of the lost boys from Sudan; Lomong made it through the rigorous selection process, and he was sent to live with a family in Upstate New York at age 16. Moving from a culture still technologically in the stone age to modern America was an adjustment to say the least, but once again, running and his strong faith were his lifelines — the only constants in his turbulent life. He became a high school track star and earned a scholarship to run for highly competitive Northern Arizona University. In 2007 he became a U.S. citizen, and in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Lomong was a Nike sponsored athlete on the U.S. Olympic Team, as well as the U.S. flag-bearer. He won his first national title in 2009, finishing first in the 1500 meters at the USA Outdoor Championships. 

Running for My Life is an incredible story of hope, faith and perseverance, of outrunning the odds and achieving the prototype of the American Dream. Sharing similar themes with Unbroken, this is the perfect read for anyone looking for a true “feel-good” story of endurance and victory over the impossible.