Reviewed by Tom O’Grady
Lopez Lomong's memoir, Running for My Life, is a remarkable and inspiring story of his journey from a child soldier in Sudan to an Olympic athlete in the United States. He vividly portrays the chaos and violence of the civil war, as well as the bravery and generosity of the people who helped him escape from a refugee camp and eventually make his way to the United States. Lomong's writing style is candid and engaging, and his story is both harrowing and uplifting.
The book begins with a gripping account of Lomong's kidnapping at the age of six during a church service in his hometown of Kimotong, Sudan. Lomong and other children were forced to march through the night to a prison camp, where they were subjected to brutal conditions and beatings. After several weeks, Lomong and three other boys escaped the camp and spent several days on the run before being taken in by a group of older boys.
This experience marked the beginning of Lomong's life as a refugee. He spent the next several years as a refugee, where he faced hunger, disease, and violence. Despite these hardships, Lomong remained hopeful and determined to make a better life for himself. Lomong's first love was soccer, and we learn that in order to play soccer each day Lomong had to do a long-distance run. Lomong first learns about the United States when he and a few other refugees watch Michael Johnson in the Olympics.
When Lomong was sixteen, he was offered the opportunity to come to the United States as part of a program to help refugees. He arrived in the United States speaking no English and with no family or friends to support him. But Lomong was determined to make the most of this opportunity. Luckily, Lomong had a very supportive and loving family in the United States who took him in and helped to further open opportunities. Once in the United States, Lomong quickly adapted to his new surroundings. The primary goal of Lomong's new mother was to ensure that he did well enough in high school that he graduated and got into college. Lomong's new father helped him meet other refugees that live near their home. Lopez was discovered by the school’s cross country and track and field coach. Although Lomong was skeptical at first about committing to running, once he does, this is when he really begins to excel at the sport.
The role that running plays in Lomong's life is a central theme throughout the book. He describes the joy and freedom he feels when he runs, and how it has helped him cope with the trauma of his past. His determination to succeed as a runner is inspiring. Lomong qualified for the US Olympic Team on July 6, 2008, one year after gaining his US citizenship. "Now I'm not just one of the 'Lost Boys,'" he told reporters. "I'm an American." It's clear that Lomong embodies what it means to be an American and is very proud to be representing the country that took him in and nurtured his talent. Lomong ended up being chosen by the team captains of the US Olympic team to carry the US flag in the Opening Ceremony at the 2008 Summer Olympics. The U.S. Olympic team captains said that Lomong deserved the honor of flagbearer because he was so proud of his citizenship. Lomong was commended by George W. Bush and asked to address the “Dream Team.} Lomong's account of his experience competing in the Olympics is riveting.
One of the strengths of the book is Lomong's ability to connect his personal story with larger themes. He reflects on the importance of family, the power of hope, and the value of perseverance. He also highlights the work of organizations that help children in need and his own efforts to help support children in South Sudan.
Lomong's memoir is also a tribute to the kindness and generosity of others. He writes about the people who helped him along the way, from the family who welcomed him to the United States to the coaches who saw his potential as a runner. He is grateful for their support and acknowledges that he could not have achieved his dreams without their help and support.
Another aspect of the book that stands out is Lomong's willingness to share his vulnerabilities. He writes about how he has learned to cope with the different challenges he has faced throughout life's journey. He also discusses the pressure he felt as an Olympic athlete and the disappointment he experienced when he did not win a medal. These moments of honesty make Lomong's story more relatable and human.
One of the most powerful aspects of Lomong's story is his unwavering faith. He credits his survival to his belief in God and the power of prayer. He writes, "I knew that God had a plan for me. I didn't know what it was, but I had faith that he would reveal it to me when the time was right."
Overall, Running for My Life is a powerful and inspiring memoir that will resonate with readers of all ages. Lomong's story is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, and his message of hope and perseverance is both timely and important. The book is well-written, engaging, and thought-provoking, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a story of triumph over adversity.
Click here to learn more about Lopez Lomong.
Reviewer Tom O’Grady is a successful runner, coach,
writer and college professor with a joint appointment
at NYSDOH/UAlbany School of Public Health.
Click on his picture to read all that he has written for the
Pace Setter-and it is a lot!
Thank you Tom!