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NYRR HALL OF FAME

Tegla Loroupe

 

Tegla Loroupe

World-Class Athlete, World-Changing Activist

On and off the racecourse, Tegla Loroupe is an inspiration for people around the world. The 4-foot, 11-inch Kenyan overcame tremendous obstacles to emerge as one of the finest female distance runners of all time. In 1994, she became the first African woman to win a major marathon, breaking the tape at the New York City Marathon. Loroupe won again the following year, and went on to capture marathon titles in Rotterdam (1997 and 1998), Berlin (1999), London (2000), Rome (2000), and Lausanne (2002). She’s twice held the women’s world marathon record. Since founding the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation in 2003, she’s devoted much of her time to ending conflict around the world.

Humble Beginnings

Loroupe was born May 9, 1973, in the West Pokot District of Kenya. As one of 25 children (her father had four wives), she spent her early years doing manual labor and helping to care for her siblings. She ran 10 kilometers to and from school each day and began winning footraces against older students. Recognizing her talent, Loroupe resolved to become a professional runner—a decision her father vehemently disagreed with. In his mind, running was unladylike, and for a time, Loroupe thought of becoming a nun. Fortunately, she stuck with athletics, and in 1989, after finally winning the respect of Kenyan officials who’d deemed her too frail to succeed, she represented her country at the IAAF World Junior Cross Country Championships. She placed 28th, setting the stage for more than a decade of major successes.

A Woman for All Distances

Loroupe’s accomplishments span a range of distances. Running barefoot, she won the 10,000 meters at the 1994 and 1998 Goodwill Games, and were it not for a bout of food poisoning, she might have won gold in that event at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Instead, she claimed a respectable fifth place—an achievement made all the more remarkable by the fact that she ran the marathon the day before, placing 13th. She notched three world half-marathon  titles between 1997 and 1999, and she holds world records for 20,000, 25,000, and 30,000 meters, run on the track.

Chasing World Peace

Despite her small size, Loroupe isn’t afraid to tackle big issues. In addition to founding her namesake foundation, she spearheaded the Tegla Loroupe Peace Academy, which provides educational opportunities to children in the Greater Horn of Africa region who’ve been displaced or orphaned by conflict or HIV/AIDS. In 2006, the United Nations named her an Ambassador of Sport, and that same year, she traveled alongside George Clooney, Don Cheadle, and Joey Cheek to raise awareness for the crisis in Darfur. In June 2011, she won the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Women and Sport Awards. Known for her sunny disposition, Loroupe continues to crusade for peace and women’s rights around the world.