Serge Gasore has been a runner since childhood: Some days he ran for fun, some days he was running to school, some he was running for a prize, but on others, he was running for his dear life.
At the age of four, Gasore lost his mother, four years later he watched his grandmother die during a grenade attack at Ntarama Parish where they, and others, were hiding during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
He survived, and went back to school. He did Ordinary Level at Muhanga-based St Joseph Kabgayi before switching to Ririma High School for his Advanced Level studies. But, he kept running.
After reflecting on the adversity faced through the 1994 Genocide, in 2002 he decided to shape his future by channeling his love for running into a career.
Running comes naturally to him. Gasore’s talent in athletics won him a track and cross country scholarship that took him to the United States, where he did his tertiary studies at Abilene Christian University in Texas. He holds two master’s degrees from the very university; in Information Technology and Global Service.
“After realising that I was talented and passionate about athletics, it helped me to regain hope. I represented my schools and won different competitions at local, regional and national level,” he recalls.
Running competitively in the U.S, this time not to escape death, Gasore participated in different championships including the Lone Star Conference and NCAA Division II South Central Region, which he won in 2007.
U.S Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches’ Association awarded Gasore the region’s Male Athlete of the year award that year, making him the first and only Rwandan to ever win the prize.
While at the university, Gasore raised his bar in athletics and networked with many people of different backgrounds.
He represented Rwanda at different world competitions; among them the 2007 IAAF World Championships in Udinese, Italy, where he was with retired long distance runners Sylvain Rukundo, Felix Ntirenganya and Dieudonne Disi.
He took also part in the 9th Annual 5km Road Race in Trinidad and Tobago in 2015, finishing second in a time of 14’08”.
As an athlete, although he was based in the United States, he continued to engage with Rwanda Athletics Federation (RAF) through different athletic activities to heal Genocide wounds, his own and those of other survivors in the sport.
Serge Gasore inside Ntarama Church where most of his family members were killed. The former parish is now a Genocide memorial. File.
In 2015, which also happened to be his last year in competitive athletics, the former Rwanda international under his charity organization ‘Gasore Serge Foundation’, initiated the annual 20km Bugesera race.
The race is aimed to fight drug abuse, teenage pregnancies and the genocide ideology.
It attracts thousands of participants and spectators who compete in the 20km, 8km and 3km categories as well as a 40km of bicycle racing.
Gasore, he says, has dedicated his life to helping many to move past their tragic past. His home village Ntarama has a lot of raw talent, the reason he decided to form Ntarama Athletics Club.
“Different sports disciplines have contributed towards the restoration of Unity, and reconciliation among Rwandans after the Genocide. Sport is a universally unifying language, thanks to the spirit of fair play and teamwork,” he noted.
He believes that sport keeps people together, and helps them to understand that looking forward and fighting for a shared future is more important than holding onto the past, which can only make them slaves of their own.
In the face of witnessing the massacre scenes of his family at Ntarama Church, which has since been turned into a Genocide Memorial Centre, Gasore has managed to overcome the horrors of the past and is committed to change lives of the Ntarama community.
“Ntarama is among places where genocide plan was experimented from, with different discrimination activities but in 1992 murders started and people were killed from their homes,” he recounts.
The Church of Ntarama was converted into a genocide memorial on April 14, 1995 and is home to over 5,000 people who lost their lives there.
Today, it is one of Rwanda’s six main Genocide museums, and contains remains, clothing, and artifacts belonging to those who were killed at the church, which remain on display at all times.
Gasore after winning a 1200m indoor race in the U.S. File.
Like other survivors, the Genocide against the Tutsi left Gasore with emotional and physical scars.
But it was not until in Texas, that Gasore, who is now married, with three children, came to know a loving God and headed down the path of forgiving those who caused so much pain to him and his family.
Gasore has also authored a book, ‘My Day to Die: Running for My Life’, where he narrates his whole story, beginning from early childhood.