Ethiopian Oromo Refugee Runs First Half-Marathon Since Calling Dallas Home

Thousands of people made their way across the finish line on Sunday for Toyota’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Half-Marathon in Dallas.

One of the runners, Tolassa Elemaa, had a long journey to get there.

Elemaa is an Ethiopian Oromo refugee, and a passionate runner.

He ran as a child, and soon began training with the Mugher Running Club.

Before his international debut, he was arrested and jailed for speaking out against government corruption and human rights violations.

Elemaa then fled to Kenya, before finally making his way to Dallas, Texas with the help of the International Rescue Committee.

Workers at the IRC began to notice his love for running.

“He’s been running around White Rock, and made it to Addison from East Dallas,” said Yui Iwase, with the International Rescue Committee.

Iwase and others encouraged Elemaa to do the half-marathon as a way to get back into competing, as well as a way to help him integrate into the Dallas community.

“What better way to get to know your city and community then to run with the people in it,” said Alex Laywell, with IRC.

Elemaa placed in the “Top 20” on Sunday at the half-marathon with his family, friends, and workers at the IRC cheering him on.

“He kind of made his debut in this country, and people can see what he can really do. I think there’s a lot more races to come…” said Laywell.

Dallas Fire Rescue said they assisted 14 people during the race with four transports to the hospital and one CPR save.

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