Most of us know of at least one female Kenyan powerhouse. Many know of Lupita Nyong’o and the late Wangari Mathai but; how many people know of Tegla Loroupe and her contributions to marathon running? Tegla Chepkite Loroupe is a Kenyan woman whose passion for running has pushed her to achieve what only a handful of people have been able to. In addition, to holding world records for 20, 25 and 30 kilometers; Tegla also holds the world marathon record, and she is also the first African woman to win the New York City Marathon.
Tegla Loroupe was born and raised in Kutomwony, in the West Pokot District of Kenya. She has twenty four siblings and as a result she took responsibility for the care of her younger siblings at a very early age. When she began to attend school at eight , she would run over eight hundred metres barefoot to get to school. Although, Tegla faced opposition from her family who believed that running was unladylike, she persevered and pursued running professionally. In the early days of her career as a professional long distance runner Tegla competed in most of her races barefoot as a way to represent of how far she had come as a runner.
Apart from being an exceptional long-distance runner, she is also a global spokeswoman for peace, women’s rights and education. One of her most famous quotes is “In a country where only men are encouraged, one must be one’s own motivation”. This quote is very poignant as it reflects the experiences of young women not just in Africa but also around the world. After being named a United Nations Ambassador of Sport for, her brilliance, her love for what she does, and never forgetting where she came from, in 2003, Loroupe created an annual series of Peace Marathons entitled “Peace Through Sports”. She invites several high ranking officials like Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ambassadors and government officials to run with warriors and nomadic groups in her native Kenya, in Uganda, and in Sudan, to bring peace to an area plagued by warfare and instability. Tegla has also continued to support the importance of education for young girls by building a school in her home region.
In addition to being an Ambassador for various sports related Organizations and International platforms, she was recently in her native Kenya, recruiting Refugees in Dadaab Refugee Camp (the largest Refugee Camp in the world) to train refugee athletes for the 2016 Rio Olympics where they competed as the first Refugee team in the history of the gamesIn a world struck by a refugee crisis, Miss Loroupe is contributing a piece of her passion to the people who she says are often seen as “nobody in the eyes of others, but have come from very difficult situations” . In contrast, Tegla sees the potential of world champions in them and the potential to do great thing.
We often hear of famous women doing great things and Tegla Loroupe’s name in my opinion should be part of that list. She is truly ambassador for her community and our continent as a whole. For her exploits in sport and her incredible humanitarian work, Tegla Loroupe is a true SHERO.
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