The Barefoot Runner


Just finished reading The Barefoot Runner by Paul Rambali. The book is written in the same form as a novel but is essentially a biography of an Ethiopian runner called Abebe Bikila.

Bikila was the first black African to win an Olympic medal (gold in the 1960 Rome marathon) and, because the shoes they found for him were a poor fit, he ran it barefoot, the way he had been all his life and the way he had trained. Four years later he won the Gold again in Tokyo wearing shoes.

The book also follows the life of his Scandinavian coach Onni Niskanen and Haile Selassie, the last Ethiopian emperor. Niskanen starts his time in Africa as a sports coach but gets heavily involved with the Red Cross and Save the Children as things begin to go pear-shaped in
Ethiopia. Bilika becomes a hero and comes to represent more to his country's people than just a great athlete. The backdrops to the story are Ethiopia's struggles with modernisation and Selassie's downfall. He was desposed by a military junta called the Derg. The country has been a mess of coups, droughts, famine, uprisings, and refugee problems, more or less ever since.

If anyone wants to read it next email me your address and I will send it to you!

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