Abdifatah Dhuhulow takes a break from some training in London’s Hyde Park, February 17, 2012. ALERTNET/Shanshan Chen

For someone who struggles to run a few metres before collapsing with a stitch, I’m constantly amazed by the skill of long-distance runners, and used to think crossing the finishing line of a marathon was the height of physical achievement — until meeting Abdifatah Dhuhulow.

An amputee, Abdifatah lost his left leg due to injuries sustained as a young boy fleeing the outbreak of civil war in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu in 1991.

The actual surgery, however, took place in London where he arrived as a refugee in 1998. It went ahead on the recommendation of surgeons who saw amputation as the most viable option, despite several operations on the leg.

By a quirk of fate, it was during Abdifatah’s long, painful rehab, that he made a life-changing discovery: he had a talent for running. In 2008, he competed in the London marathon, outpacing many able-bodied runners to clock up a finishing time of 3 hours 14 minutes.