Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"Lost Boy" Runs his Third Boston Marathon

An amazing story found on the BAA website...

Sudanese refugee Abraham Gai Yol of Worcester will run his third Boston Marathon on Monday. Gai Yol is one of the “Lost Boys” who fled Sudan during the 1980s to escape a horrific civil war. The Lost Boys walked from Sudan to Ethiopia, and then to Kenya where they lived as orphans in refugee camps for many years.

When Gai Yol first arrived in America the idea of recreational running was foreign to him. In Sudan walking and running served only functional purposes. But encouragement from his host family helped him adjust to the recreational sport. “We literally started by finding shoes and encouraging [Gai Yol and his friend Gabriel Akau] to eat more than one meal a day, run on weekends and, eventually, to wear shorts,” said Susan Lynch.

With the help of several runners from the Nashoba cross country team, Gai Yol trained for the 2004 Boston Marathon. He finished in 4:03:52. A year later he ran again hoping to improve his time and did – by nearly an hour. In 2005 Gai Yol finished in 3:09:59, qualifying him to run the 2006 Boston Marathon with one second to spare.

Gai Yol will be at the starting line again this April for what he expects to be the last time. On Monday afternoons, he trains with the track team at Clark University, where he is taking an English class. “This guy must be a natural because he can only fit in one or two runs a week due to his work and school schedule and still manages to pull off 20 mile runs without a problem,” said Lynch.

Although he is humble about his accomplishments, Gai Yol’s bedroom wall is like a shrine to the Boston Marathon. “He has many photographs as well as his completion certificates on [his wall,]” said Lynch. “He says they represent to him that he can achieve things he never dreamt of here.”

In May, Gai Yol will be traveling back to Kenya to reunite with his mother, whom he recently located after 18 years of not knowing where she was or even if she was alive. She currently lives in a refugee camp. “We are putting together a photo album of all his marathon photos and memorabilia for him to take with him,” said Lynch.