For the past six years, Guled’s long-striding legs have carried him to every corner of his adopted homeland of Egypt. He runs in marathons across the country, with his prized collection of medals tucked into the inside pocket of his kit bag.

This is not the first time Guled has had to run. In 2007, he fled his home country, Somalia. He feared for his own life, after militia groups killed his father, during the country’s decades-long civil conflict.

When he first arrived in Cairo, Guled sought refuge in the close-knit Somali community and spent his time teaching English to Somali children.

“To settle in a new country is not something which is easy,” he says, reflecting on his early years in Egypt.

“I miss the care and love of my parents. It’s emotional and it hurts. Not being able to see your family and not knowing when you will see them again.”

In 2012, when the world’s gaze turned to the London Summer Olympics, Guled’s attention was fixed on one athlete in particular – British distance runner Mo Farah, who as a child had himself fled Somaliland. Guled was inspired to join a local running group in Cairo, a move that would transform his life in ways he could not have anticipated.

“Running took me out of my home, my neighbourhood, for the first time, because before, I never even knew the neighbourhoods in Cairo itself,” he says.

Guled was inspired to join a local running group in Cairo, a move that would transform his life. © UNHCR / D. Degner

Whenever I am running I feel free, living in a free world of my own.

"And this is why running is so important to me – it helps me overcome the difficulty or stress that I am having as a refugee.”

International Day of Sport for Development and Peace on 6 April recognises the positive influence sport can have on the advancement of human rights and social development. For people uprooted by war or persecution, sport is an opportunity to feel included in their host communities and to heal, develop and grow.

But running is the not the only area where Guled has achieved success. In 2013, he became a refugee interpreter for UNHCR in Egypt, providing interpretation services in English and Somali, and he later became the interpreters’ coordinator.

Today, Guled has a proud record of participating in marathons, decathlons and obstacle races across Egypt and he has made many friends within the running community.

For other keen runners, Guled has these words of advice: “You just need to go out there and try to achieve what you can achieve now, rather than waiting for the future.”

Guled participates in the Cairo Runners Club run where he’s been an active member for several years. © UNHCR / D. Degner

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