From LA Times:
Guo Ping was just 9 when she started training as a marathon runner. By the time she was 16, she had gone pro, getting up at 4 in the morning and sometimes running 40 miles a day on feet so swollen she could barely squeeze them into her shoes.
Although she harbored Olympic-sized dreams, the coal miner’s daughter thought she also had a good backup plan. If she couldn’t become the best of the best, she could always retire from sports and get a government job as a police officer.
That promise by her coach, she says, helped her endure a brutal training regime in which she and other runners had no contact with the outside world and no one to protect them from the coach, who beat them with a whip or baton, or knocked them off their feet with the bumper of his car if he thought they were slacking off.