“Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved. “ – William Jennings Bryan
There are times in a person’s life when they get to be part of something bigger than themselves. Throughout the years, I have been privileged to participate in the successes of many athletes of different levels. It is always an awesome experience to witness someone achieving their potential and breaking through.
Last Friday night, working with Lopez Lomong –helping him break the American Record in the 5,000 meters indoors at the Armory in New York City – was one such moment. Although Lopez and I hadn’t worked together regularly since 2009, late in the evening the Wednesday before the race I was reminded how important the journey is for Lopez and what it represents for him to be running now. I was reunited with a person with a magnetic spirit and infectious optimism.
I was taken back to what he had told me when I first met him in Flagstaff. Even though he was still a student in college, Lopez was clear that he saw himself as a vehicle for something more, that running was an instrument for something greater, and that his story of having survived being one of the Lost Boys of Sudan could not only help people back in his home country, but could be a source of inspiration for people of all walks of life to face and overcome life’s obstacles. Since those early conversations he has obtained a college degree, become a professional runner, been on two Olympic teams – the first of which he was the flag barer for the U.S. team – started a charity, bought a house, written a book, and numerous other achievements. However, he continues to be aware of the gifts he has been given and remains determined to utilize them to the fullest. He said that on the plane to the race he had hoped to get some rest, but several people on the plane recognized him and wanted to talk to him. They had read his book and wanted to talk to him more about his story and share theirs as well; he felt that the missed rest was worth the fellowship and camaraderie. He also made it clear that the suffering is continuing today in Sudan and that there is much to be done, both on the track and off. I am grateful for the reminder. Lopez bears the scars on his feet of running for three days as a young boy escaping death in Sudan; he can motivate us all to fulfill our destiny.
I hope you enjoy these pictures from this special night, a night where Lopez ran with purpose and grace – a testament to timing, talent, hard work, and dedication.
Phil Wharton, or as Lopez would say, “Dr. Phil”