The world’s greatest runner (argue among yourselves) on meeting hyenas, winning sheep and the secret of his success
Tell us how you started runningMy schoolteacher asked me to compete in a 1,500m race. I realised I could run faster and further than the other guys and my teacher told me to start training seriously.Were your parents good runners?I don’t know, they never tried. Every African has to walk many kilometres every day, but I never saw them run. My mother died when I was ten.What’s your weekly mileage?About 200km (roughly 124 miles).Is it true your running style is a result of carrying your schoolbooks under your left arm as a kid? Yes, in the beginning you could see me running differently with my left arm, now it is not so strong any more.You’ve won a lot of races all over the world, what’s the weirdest prize you’ve ever received?In a cross-country in Spain I got a sheep as first prize. I left it with the organisers. Hopefully it is still alive!What’s in your bottle on marathons? I try to drink 200ml PowerBar Energize drink every 5km during both marathons and half–marathons. I like the PowerBar Gels in green apple or blackcurrant and I prefer the caffeinated ones. What do you think about while you run?My family, my children, my business, my friends, training, new plans – it can be many, many things. Running helps me to get back my focus on the normal things in life.What’s the strangest request you’ve had from a fan? Not strange, but very special; a very sick boy who wanted to meet me as a last wish. Who’s the joker in the pack in your training group? Most of my training is done alone, but when we do train together we like to joke around about meeting hyenas during training. You do a lot to help improve the lives of the people living in EthiopiaI employ more than 1,000 people. This is very important to me, I hope to help Ethiopia develop much better living standards. Most important are education and infrastructure. That’s why I’ve built three schools. I also have several businesses and my hotel.What’s your top tip for new runners?Be patient, listen to your body; don’t force things and progress simply – step by step. And above all, enjoy. It’s rumoured you will move into politics when you hang up the running shoes – what can running teach you about a life in high office?Never give up on your dreams. It takes a lot of effort, energy and time to reach your goals and you need stamina. And just like running, don’t talk; take action.