Tegla Loroupe: No Friction, Please!
When Tegla Loroupe runs, it is as if she propels forward, with zero friction to the ground. A concept she believes in wholeheartedly not just for the marathons she runs, but for communities in conflict as well.
The Kenyan is the world record holder for 20, 25, and 30 kilometre distances, Loroupe held the world marathon record and was the first woman from Africa to win the New York City Marathon.
Of late, her achievements have included running a different course: that of peace. Through the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation, she wants to bring peace to communities and regions ravaged by conflict, wherever they might be.
First, she started with her home country, Kenya, where cattle rustling is a growing cause of conflict, taking hundreds of young lives every year and pushing thousands into poverty and lawlessness. In cattle rustling, one group raids another to plunder their livestock, but often, lives and property are lost. The issue is complicated by the fact that it had traditional acceptance under the name of “cattle raiding”, which was a sort of sport amongst communities, although that did not include guns and destruction of property.
When guns entered Kenya, the practice has taken on an ugly avatar with large-scale plundering, rapes and murders becoming common. Apart from the loss of life and property, the future of youth who are part of these communities is very bleak, with no skill or occupation at hand.
The Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation, started in 2003, does just that, though its various programmes aimed at bringing armed conflict to an end. For example, through the disarmament programme, people give up their guns and are trained in sports or an income-generating livelihood.Through Peace Races, different warring tribes are brought together and the spotlight returns to the issues plaguing societies.
The Foundation’s Peace Education programmes are aimed specifically at conflict-torn areas, sensitizing children to the amazing opportunities that peace can bring about. The Foundation also runs several projects especially for the education and rights of girls.
Tegla’s story is as amazing as it is inspiring. One of 24 children, Tegla had to struggle hard to even get permission to pursue sports. She only knew she could run fast as she had to run 10 kilometres to her school. Her father, a polygamous man with four wives, did not care much for women going out of the house. He would give her extra chores at home so she would miss school, but that just made Tegla run faster, and gain more interest in running as a sport!
Supported by her mother and oldest sister, Tegla pursued the sport. She ran barefoot for most of her races, opting for shoes only for the tougher international races. Now, at 42, Tegla’s story continues to inspire not just runners, but peacemakers throughout the world.
And she practices what she preaches. She has since made peace with her father.