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Running on Faith: A One-Time Running Buddy

DC Evening

On a blazing hot and humid summer evening in Washington (D.C.) a few years ago, I was running alongside an elite runner, although I did not realize it at the time.

My one-time running buddy hailed from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he was revered as a sports hero, having competed in major road races and marathons all over the world, earning enough prize money to support his family. But in 2013, he was detained for ten days and tortured by the nation’s ruling political coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. He fled to the United States and sought refuge in Washington. When he arrived, he was alone and was suffering from major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, conditions commonly experienced by refugees and survivors of torture. His immigration lawyer referred him to the Torture Abolition Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) where I interned during my first year of theology at the Catholic University of America. TASSC was established by torture survivors to serve other surviving victims by providing a community, legal support, medical referrals, housing and job training.

I was in town for a couple of weeks that summer to help out with TASSC’s summer conference. The Franciscan nun who was my mentor and supervisor connected us because of our shared love of running. “The two of you should go for a run together,” she had said. We both welcomed the opportunity, as a runner always appreciates having company, even just a one-time running partner to break up the occasional monotony that comes with an otherwise solitary sport. Needless to say, the well-accomplished marathoner and then Olympic hopeful, smoked me handily over the course of those eight miles. In the Fall, he would go on to win the Marine Corps Marathon in 2 hours and 21 minutes.

When I run this year's IRIS Run for Refugees on Sunday, I’ll be thinking of him.


Whether you are in New Haven or not, you can run it with me—and STM—as well. To register for this year’s 5K, you can click on this link:

When you do, feel free to register for the STM team! 

Fr. Ryan Lerner, Chaplain

Fr. Ryan Lerner, Chaplain

Fr. Ryan Lerner is Yale's 8th Catholic Chaplain.