May 3, 2021
Coach Gilbert Tuhabonye has been leading the Gilbert's Gazelles running group since 2002. It's a group that encompasses all ages, goals, paces, and fitness levels. All are drawn to Gilbert, not just for the promise of getting faster or getting your BQ time (which trust me - can and does happen frequently), but people are drawn to Gilbert because of his smile, magnetic personality, and the inspiration you’ll hear today from his story. Even former President George W. Bush was inspired to paint a portrait of Gilbert in his new book, "Out of Many, One: Portraits of America's Immigrants."
He knows that simply put, running with joy makes you a better human. Running can also save lives as it saved his on a few occasions.
He’s originally from Burundi and was a standout runner and student. In 1993, a centuries-old Civil War between two tribes was raging in his home country. And, as written in the description of his memoir, “The Voice in My Heart” - Fueled by hatred, the Hutus forced more than a hundred Tutsi children and teachers into a small room and used machetes to beat most of them to death. Gilbert was one of those Tutsi students. The unfortunate ones who survived the beating were doused with gasoline and set on fire. After hiding under burning bodies for over eight hours, Gilbert heard a voice inside saying, "You will be all right; you will survive." He knows it was God speaking to him. Gilbert was the lone survivor of the genocide, and thanks his enduring faith in God for his survival.
How did he survive? He ran…miles and miles with burns over most of his body. It’s horrific to imagine, but running saved him that day. It also brought him to the US where he ran for Abilene Christian University and, under the mentorship of Paul Carozza, eventually landed in Austin to work for Paul and RunTex. He’s been here ever since, became a legal US Citizen, and has raised his family here. In 2006, He also started The Gazelle Foundation - building wells, providing resources, and bringing clean water systems for thousands in Burundi.
And, this is why it was the biggest honor of his life to be painted by a US President and interviewed on the Today Show by Jenna Bush. He is the epitome of the American Dream.