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Synopsis

In a span of 81 days in 1978, Henry Rono broke four world records, committing the most ferocious assault on the track-and-field record books by a middle-distance runner in the history of the sport.

 

This is what Henry Rono is known for. However, it is not who Henry Rono is.

 

Henry Rono was born a poor Nandi in Kenya's Rift Valley. After an accident when he was two, doctors believed he would never again walk. This would be the first of countless obstacles Rono would have to overcome in order to pursue his two life goals: to first become the greatest runner in the world and then to become the best teacher he could be.

 

Rono's first goal was accomplished in 1978, when he was considered not only the greatest track-and-field athlete in the world, but also by many to be the world's greatest athlete period. His second and greater goal, to become a teacher, was more difficult in coming.

 

Once Rono became a star, coaches, agents, meet directors, and corrupt Kenyan athletic officials (whose boycotts of the 1976 and 1980 Olympics turned Rono's dreams of Olympic gold into Olympic smoke rings), wanted him to serve as their personal moneymaker, and so they did everything they could to discourage Rono's pursuit of an education and dream of teaching. The corruption and discouragement Rono encountered, as well as his alienation and exile from his homeland and family, pushed him to 20 years of alcoholism and even occasional homelessness.

 

This is the life story of Henry Rono, whose descent from triumph to abyss, and whose subsequent ascent from abyss to triumph, are perhaps steeper than those of any track-and field athlete in history.

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