“Let us use football and sport to communicate peace, development, and social change. Let us join hands and join the Supporters Club in promoting the unique power of football.”
Tegla Loroupe was born in 1973 in Kapsait village in the West Pokot District of Kenya. She grew up with 24 siblings and spent her childhood working fields, tending cattle, and looking after her younger brothers and sisters. At the age of seven she started school and had to run 10 kilometers to and from school every morning. At school, she became aware of her potential as an athlete when she beat older children at school races and – with the support of only her mother – decided to pursue a career as a runner.
The Kenyan athletics federation did not initially support her, believing Loroupe to be too small and thin. This changed when she won a prestigious barefoot cross country race in 1988. She began to train for international competitions the following year, earning her first pair of running shoes in 1989, which she wore only for particularly rough races.
In 1994, Tegla began winning world titles and setting world records in major running events across the globe. In 1994, Loroupe ran and won her first major marathon in New York. As a consequence, she was idolized by many young people in Africa: at last, a female champion to complement the many successful male runners. Loroupe has set world records at 20, 25, and 30 kilometer distances, as well as the marathon distance. She also used to hold the world record for the one-hour run with a distance of 18,340 meters.
Even with her considerable athletic achievements, Tegla has never taken her roots or her influential profile for granted. She founded the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation and organises a series of annual Peace Marathons. Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ambassadors, and government officials run with warriors and nomadic groups in her native Kenya, as well as in Uganda and Sudan, to bring peace to areas plagued by raiding between battling tribes. She has established a school – the Tegla Loroupe Peace Academy – and an orphanage for children from the region in Kapenguria, a high-mountain town in north-west Kenya.