Years before he competed in the 1996 Olympics, when his only idea of the outside world came from a static-laced radio broadcast, the boy named Haile Gebrelassie decided to run.
The eighth of ten children born to a farmer's wife in a mud hut in Ethiopia, one of the world's poorest countries, he ran six miles to school and back, his books tucked in the crook of one arm. Like all of his siblings, he worked hard in the fields under his father's stern gaze.
Haile, however, was known for his persistance, still chopping firwood or threshing wheat when his older brother had given up, still goading oxen to pull the plow farther. After the chores were done and his daily three-hour trip to fetch the family's water, he would take off across the fields.
Then he would run - barefoot and in the same clothes he wore while working on the farm.