Gelete Burka wins the women's short course race at the 2006 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka (© Getty Images)
Ethiopia’s 2006 world cross-country and 2008 world indoor champion Gelete Burka has enjoyed a lengthy and successful career in the sport. The 32-year-old, who has now moved up to the marathon, explains her passion for running.
"I started running aged 13 after a coach encouraged me to get involved. I began my sporting life as a footballer. I used to be a good player; I was very quick on the ball and I used to score lots of goals but as soon as I started competitive running, I knew it was the right decision.
"Running has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I used to regularly run through the village and run to school and back.
"My idol as a youngster was Derartu Tulu (the 1992 and 2000 Olympic 10,000m champion from Ethiopia). She was my motivation and I always wanted to be just like her.
"As I moved on and my running improved, I realised I could also be a professional runner just like Derartu. It became such a good career choice.
"Of course, running is not always easy. It is hard work and it can leave me fatigued and tired. To train hard demands many sacrifices but I’ve always had a drive, a fight in me that makes me a winner.
"There are many reasons I like to run. It is great sport, and great entertainment. You can’t win every race but the joy and thrill I get from winning races satisfies my hunger and keeps me motivated.
"Being a professional runner has also brought its financial benefits and this has allowed me to feed many children in my home village in Ethiopia and support my family at home.
"Running has also allowed me to connect with millions of people around the world and brought me health, peace and serenity in my life.
"In fact, I would encourage others to run too because it helps people live a healthy lifestyle and it can help steer people away from making bad life choices. Pursuing running has been an excellent career choice."
Steve Landells for the IAAF