As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a bit of a bookaholic. Unfortunately, however, I seem to buy far more books than I ever get a chance to read. Travelling allows me the time to catch up. And so, after completing Bill Bryson’s Down Under, I tackled Barefoot Runner, the life of double Olympic Marathon Champion Abebe Bikila as told by Paul Rambali.
I like my book choice to reflect my travels, and when they’re not about travelling itself, they are usually about runners from some of the countries I’ve been to. In truth I had meant to read this book when I was in Ethiopia twelve months ago, but get round to it - better late than never.
Bikila was the first of the great African runners, and his efforts in winning the Rome marathon while running barefoot heralded the start of the golden age of African distance runners. The book is an interesting insight, not only to the life and times of Bikila and his coach, but also gives the reader some idea of the history and life of Ethiopia at that time. How Bikila came to be competing at an Olympic Games in the first place involves more than a couple of cases of good luck and being in the right place at the right time. Getting to a second Olympics was even more fortunate.
Bikila had more than a small part to play in changing the face of African distance running, and putting Ethiopia on the map. The story is highly recommended to anyone interested in the success of East Africa athletes. I just wish I’d read it before I visited Addis 12 months ago.