When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020 and most of the runners lost their source of income after races across the world were canceled, John Lotiang was selfless and determined to help his fellow runners in Iten during the hard times. He decided to move out of his own house into a smaller room in a corner of his own compound, in order to provide free accommodation for them.
“If no one had helped me, I would not be where I am today. That is what has made me decide to give out all my rental units, and my house as well, to runners in Iten for free until such a time when they will find other means to earn a living, or when everything returns to normal again,” Lotiang, a reformed Pokot warrior who left cattle rustling a few years ago to pursue running told the writer at his training base in Iten.
Looking back at how the little help he ever got went a long way in changing his life into an accomplished runner as per his World Athletics Profile, he was so eager to seize the opportunity to be able to give back to the community as well.
Through the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation initiative that was founded by the legendary runner and peace icon, Tegla Loroupe, Lotiang, and a few other young warriors from the Pokot community were identified and provided with everything they needed – food, shelter, and clothing- to begin their careers in running. He has been quite successful so far and knows what a big difference a little help can make to someone’s life.
According to him, the situation for other runners in Iten right then was not that good. There were those who had prepared well to go out and run good times in order to win some money for themselves and their families. But, having invested all their money in training well, the races were canceled. There were others who had been depending on the support of other established runners for their upkeep in camp, and he could only imagine what they were going through now that those who they depended upon were themselves going through tough economic times.
Unbelievable as it sounds, Lotiang had even had to move from the bigger house he was living in to a smaller space in order to get some more space to help more runners who had approached him for help.
It had not been a good year for him as well. He had great plans, but trouble started at the exact place where he was hoping to make a huge step in his marathon career. He wanted to run a 2:08 time in a marathon at the Wuhan International Marathon in China. This is where the coronavirus spread started and the race had to be canceled. He shifted his focus to the Istanbul and Ottawa marathons that were also later on postponed.
“Continuing to train right now is a bit hard with no races coming up and with no big groups to join for the different training workouts. It takes a lot of effort to keep doing two runs in a day, but I still do my best to maintain some good mileage weekly since my aim is to move up to the marathon when everything opens up again,” he said.
His message to runners who are better off financially, and to everyone else in the community, is, “Please, let us help others.”
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