Here at Moja Tu, we are always on the lookout for great examples for our students to follow. Recently, we learned about the life and achievements of Tegla Loroupe, one of Kenya’s most successful athletes. Tegla is not simply an accomplished long-distance track runner – she is also a global spokesperson for peace and women’s rights, as well as one of our favorite advocates of education. Tegla’s example of perseverance, hard work, and philanthropy is one we hope all of our students can learn from.
Born to Kenya’s Pokot tribe, situated in the Rift Valley, Tegla grew up as one of 25 siblings, under the care of her father and his four wives. Growing up, she helped around her household by tending to the family’s livestock, as well as the younger children in the house. Her father often told her that she would never amount to anything.
Tegla had to make a twenty-kilometer run every day, barefoot, to attend primary school. This monumental feat, as well as the long-distance races she won at school against much older students, convinced Tegla to pursue an athletic carer. However, aside from her mother, no one supported Tegla’s dreams. Even the Kenyan athletics federation wouldn’t give her a chance, telling her she was too small and thin to be an athlete. In spite of this, Tegla kept working toward her dreams, winning race after race until she finally won a prestigious cross-country race, barefoot, when she was 15 years old. At this time, she began to train to compete internationally. She received her first pair of real running shoes when she was 16, but only used them for particularly tough races.
At 21 years old, Tegla ran her first major international marathon in New York. She breezed past the competition, becoming the first African woman to win the New York City Marathon. Tegla would go on to win this race twice more, along with many, many other races in major cities like Osaka, Berlin, London, and Paris. Today, she holds a slew of recognitions, prizes, and world records. She stated that she was able to achieve these incredible feats because she knew she was a bearer of hope for the people of Kenya, and she could not let them down.
In 2003, Tegla founded the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation in Nairobi. The foundation organized its first peace run the same year, in which government officials ran with members of nomadic groups across Kenya. These runs have led to many peace dialogues, meetings, and friendly athletic competitions between various tribes previously at war with each other. Hundreds of warriors have laid down their weapons due to these runs. Tegla has also acted as ambassador for several global sports leagues, dedicated to achieving peace through sports and increasing the participation of female athletes. The Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation also built a school, called the Tegla Loroupe Peace Academy, in the mountains of western Kenya.
Tegla’s tenacity is truly something to be admired. Even when faced with criticism from everyone, including most of her own family, she never gave up on her dreams, and worked twice as hard to achieve them. She has always used her career to make a positive impact on her country, and her example has inspired countless young girls and women to follow their own dreams as well. Her perseverance, hard work, and love for her country are universal lessons we hope all of our students will learn from. We hope that many of them will follow in Tegla’s footsteps in the years to come.