Thursday, August 2, 2012

Running for My Life - Book Review

If you've been watching TV leading up to the Olympics, then you probably saw a VISA commercial about an Olympic runner named Lopez Lomong. In the commercial, Morgan Freeman narrates a brief synopsis of Lomong's life: kidnapped as a boy in South Sudan to join a militant army, his escape from the army by running, his turn as a runner for the USA in the Beijing Olympics. Lomong's autobiography, Running for My Life, gives much more detail than this 30-second commercial.

Lomong was at church with his parents one Sunday morning when a bunch of men came and took him and other children at the church. The boys were taken away in one direction. Lomong did not know what happened to the girls. He was 6 at the time.

While sequestered in a hut with hundreds of other boys, Lomong watched as the older, stronger boys were chosen for weapons training, while Lomong and the younger boys were left to wait in the hut. Many boys died. But not Lomong.

Then one night, three older boys (whom Lomong calls his angels) take Lomong with them on a risky escape. The four boys don't stop running until they reach Kenyra and are put in a refugee camp. Lomong spends 10 years in the camp until he wins an essay contest that brings him to America where he finds out just how prized his fast running skills are.

As a child in the camp, Lomong watched African-American Michael Johnson win gold in the Olympics, and Lomong made it his goal to go to the Olympics, too. He didn't realize that once he got to America, that dream would become more of a reality.

The story of Lomong's childhood separated from his family is sad, and the story of meeting his new family in Syracuse, New York is heartwarming and at times amusing. (He didn't know how to turn off the light in his bedroom, and so slept with the light on for a few nights, assuming that was how Americans slept.) It's wonderful that upon arriving in America, Lomong instantly had a strong support system from his foster parents. They helped him learn English and pass his high school classes and get into college. Without their relentless encouragement, it's quite possible that Lomong wouldn't be where he is today.

And where he is today is running and running a foundation (4 South Sudan) to bring education, clean water, nutrition, and healthcare to his home in Africa.

Lomong credits everything, ultimately, to God. God had a plan for Lomong, and even though times were hard, Lomong knew to keep trusting in God. Lomong was going to accept whatever God's will was. And even though Lomong didn't medal in Beijing (his success in this year's London Olympics has yet to be seen), he has used his fame to promote his cause and spread the word of God's love.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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