Abebe Bikila

AFP/GETTY IMAGES

MARATHON MAN: Running barefoot, Bikila won gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics

Before Abebe Bikila, there were no runners in Africa, or at least no runners that the world knew about. After Bikila won the Olympic marathon in Rome in 1960, we Africans all started thinking: "Look — he is one of us. If he can do it, we can do the same."

Let me explain it in a different way. Before the Wright brothers invented the first successful airplane, no humans could fly, and most people didn't believe such a thing was possible — yet now we're sending rockets to Mars and who knows where next. In...

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