Tegla Loroupe is a Kenyan-born long distance track and field star using her success as a way to help others reach their dreams through women’s rights advocacy, peace movements, and educational programs. Running to her dreams, Loroupe holds three world records for the 20, 30, and 50 kilometer races. In addition, she was the first woman from Africa to win the New York City Marathon and has also made an appearance in the London, Boston, Hong Kong, Berlin, and Rome marathons, winning several of those races as well.
Now a well-recognized face inspiring millions of people to chase their dreams, pursue education, and promote peace, Loroupe focuses on bringing about change to the world through her Track and Field Foundation. The foundation focuses on four key aspects including: peace building and conflict mitigation, education, enterprise and livelihood, and finally a focus on the environment. Her vision is to provide “a peaceful prosperous and just world in which sports is a unifying and livelihood factor.”
Promoting peace, this program is focused on a variety of venues to help the foundation spread their message. The Tegla Loroupe Peace Races have been going strong for over 13 years, first starting in 2003. In addition to the peace race, the foundation offers various peace forums, humanitarian aid, cultural peace initiatives, and even exchange visits to help cross-promote various cultural experiences.
Education is a foundation that many don’t have access to in Kenya. Loroupe’s foundation is changing that by directly offering academies for children located in Turkana, Pokot, Karamojong, and other North Western Kenyan provinces. Combined with their efforts to provide a refuge for young girls suffering from harmful cultural practices such as FGM, early marriages, and violence, the Tegla Loroupe Track and Field Foundation has provided hundreds of children with the chance to learn, grow and live in a safer environment.
Loroupe understands that long-term success is built upon providing a solid structure of ongoing support and opportunity. The team also provides a focus on providing dairy to local tribes, restocking food supplies, and even micro-transactions to help support local farmers and merchants to keep their shelves stocked.
Finally, the last step in the foundation’s strategy is to ensure that locals have proper water sources to feed and water their livestock, allowing tribes to settle in designated areas instead of being forced into the nomadic lifestyle. Planting trees and vegetation is another key element in their environmental movement, providing these arid and semi-arid regions a respite from the harsh environment many live with on a daily basis.
Most recently at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Loroupe took full advantage of her stardom to promote her cause, writing on a mural, ““Peace, unity through sports.” The New York Times reported that Loroupe had facilitated a refugee group of 10 displaced athletes, known as the Refugee Olympic Team. The team of outcast athletes found a purpose and home with Loroupe. “Tegla is our mother, not only our leader,” said Yiech Pur Biel, one of the team members. “Most of us run because of war. Madam Tegla gives us a chance for other people to know the history of our lives. And we can forget what happened before. We can celebrate. We can have hope, like everyone else.”
While no medals were officially won by the Refugee Olympic Team in 2016, the impact and global message was delivered to millions of people across all countries, as they watched a team of displaced athletes come together, race for a purpose, and show the world that there is still hope.