A member of the Pokot tribe, who live in northern Kenya, Tegla’s father had four wives and she grew up with 24 brothers and sisters. She spent her childhood working in the fields, tending cattle and looking after younger brothers and sisters. At the age of six, she started school, having to run 10km to and from class and becoming aware of her potential as an athlete. Initially a barefoot runner, she was 16 before she received her first pair of running shoes.
In 1994 and 1998, Tegla won the 10,000 metres at the Goodwill Games and bronze medals over the same distances at the World Athletics Championships in 1995 and 1999.
In 1994, she took part in and won her first major marathon in New York, becoming an icon for many young African women. She repeated the feat in 1995 and also won in Rotterdam three straight times from 1997 to 1999. She has also been a winner in Berlin, Boston, London and Rome.
She was favourite to win a gold medal in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney in the the marathon, but she was ill the night before the race and could only finish 13th, still insisting on running barefoot.
In 2003, she created an annual series of peace marathons, sponsored by the Tegla Loroupe Foundation, involving warriors and nomadic groups in her native Kenya, Uganda and Sudan, in an effort to bring peace to an area plagued by raiding warriors from battling tribes. She has also established a school and orphanage for children from her own region of Kenya.
A highly committed woman, in 2006 she was named a United Nations sport ambassador and travelled with American actors George Clooney and Don Cheadle to Beijing, Cairo and New York on a diplomatic mission to bring an end to violence in Darfur. She is also an international ambassador for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and UNICEF.
Tegla has been an active Ambassador for the Laureus Sport for Good for many years. She was an enthusiastic supporter of International Inspiration in Tanzania, the official legacy programme of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, supported by Laureus, which reached out to 1.3 million young people by using physical education and sport to help develop leadership, education, work and life skills. She was elected a Laureus Academy Member in 2015.