Julius Achon, Olympic Runner and Humanitarian

Julius Achon grew up in a small village, Awake, 40 miles northeast of Lira in northern Uganda. At age 12, he was kidnapped by the Lord's Resistance Army, a militant coalition that rebelled against the Uganda government, and was forced to become a child soldier. Three months later, Julius escaped and returned to his village.

Shortly thereafter, Julius returned to school and began running. His talents landed him a scholarship in 1990 to attend school at Makerere High School in the capital city of Kampala.  At age 17, having attracted the attention of several Ugandan sports officials, he was entered in the 1994 World Junior Championships in Portugal, and ran the 1,500. He won the race, wearing shoes for the first time in competition and bringing Uganda its first World Junior gold medal. His performance caught the eye of John Cook, an American track coach who brought him to George Mason University in Virginia on a scholarship.

Julius went on to compete for Uganda in the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, both times serving as captain of the Ugandan Olympic team. While training near his village in 2003, he encountered a group of orphans and couldn’t help but take them into his home. That was the beginning of the Achon Uganda Children’s Fund.

Currently living in Portland, Oregon, Julius is employed by Nike, and spends much of his time engaged in the humanitarian work of the Achon Uganda Children’s Fund.  He and his wife Grace tithe to support the Achon orphans and family members in Uganda. Julius was featured in the January 2012 Runner’s World magazine as its “2012 Hero” for his humanitarian work and remarkable story.