Book Review: Running for My Life

Running for My Life is not a story about Africa or track and field athletics. It is about outrunning the devil and achieving the impossible faith, diligence, and the desire to give back. It is the American dream come true and a stark reminder that saving one can help to save thousands more.

“Lopez Lomong chronicles his inspiring ascent from a barefoot lost boy of the Sudanese Civil War to a Nike sponsored athlete on the US Olympic Team. Though most of us fall somewhere between the catastrophic lows and dizzying highs of Lomong’s incredible life, every reader will find in his story the human spark to pursue dreams that might seem unthinkable, even from circumstances that might appear hopeless.

“Lopez Lomong’s story is one of true inspiration. His life is a story of courage, hard work, never giving up, and having hope where there is hopelessness all around. Lopez is a true role model.” ―MICHAEL JOHNSON, Olympic Gold Medalist

I didn’t expect this to be one of those books I couldn’t put down. I’ve read autobiographies before, even some from African leaders and heroes, but none of them have been as inspiring and captivating as Lopez Lomong’s story. Michael Johnson had it right, though — it’s more than a story about running, Sudan, or the civil war. It’s a story of faith and of how one person who has been saved and redeemed can change the lives of countless others.

Lomong’s story begins in Sudan when he’s torn from his mothers’ arms at church and abducted by rebels in the Sudanese civil war. He’s taken directly to the killing fields, where he watches countless other young boys die, while the older boys begin training to be soldiers. By the grace of God, he is able to escape along with three older boys (whom he calls his angels), and the group runs for three nights straight across Sudan, collapsing at last at a refugee camp on the Kenyan border.

Lomong spends the next ten years here, where his life consists of digging through trash for food, watching even more friends die from preventable diseases, and running every day. He gives readers a shocking picture of what life is really like as a refugee, and as the story progresses with him winning the chance to be adopted by an American family, the contrast between the refugee camp and a normal American household is heartbreaking. It’s here, though, that the story becomes hilarious as Lomong, who is clearly in great culture shock (as would be anyone, obviously), astounds his new American family by running eighteen miles one morning, just because. It’s not too long afterwards that the high school cross country coach shows up with uniforms for Lomong, who insists to everyone that he’s really not a runner.

The book continues by following Lomong through high school and on into college and eventually to the Olympic games as a United States citizen. Along the way, Lomong’s American family grows to include more lost boys, he is able to go back and finally see his parents again after years of assuming they were dead, and he progresses from barely understanding English to getting a business degree from an American university. By Lomong’s own admission in the conclusion, the story has just begun, as he now has the platform as an Olympian to finally help his native Sudan in world-changing ways. I would go into greater detail… but I don’t want to ruin the book for you!

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a story of personal triumph even in the most troubling of circumstances. Lomong’s story is one that should be heard by all Americans and by all who have a heart for seeing the world changed for better.

Many thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book. All opinions expressed are mine entirely.

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