When Futsum Zienasellassie arrived in Indianapolis from his native Eritrea in 2007, running was barely on his radar. His priorities included learning English and playing soccer, not necessarily in that order. But soon Zienasellassie’s natural running gifts were discovered during eighth grade gym class, and it was only a matter of time before soccer was on the back burner and the Indiana prep distance scene had a new top dog.
RT: Bahlbi really encouraged you with your running when you were getting started, didn’t he?
FZ: When I was back home in Eritrea I used to go with him when he would run and hold his warm-up clothes and wait for him. So I used to see how hard he worked for what he really liked. But he didn’t have an opportunity to achieve his goals because he went into the military. But yes, it was him who started running in my family and I followed. When I came here I thought I could take his dream and maybe see what I could do.