There are many things to discuss when it comes to the topic of marathon running. Whether it be the difficulty of this test of physical endurance or the strain it puts on the human body, everyone can agree that running a distance of 26.2 miles is a great achievement for anyone.
Marathoning is such a hot topic that almost anyone can name at least a few famous marathon runners who have set and broken records.
So, who are these people that dedicate their lives to training their body to push the boundaries of the human form and achieve the seemingly impossible?
Marathon runners generally make names for themselves at big, international sporting events such as the Olympic and Commonwealth games as their physical ability wows spectators across the globe and even inspires people to lace up and go for a jog.
Whether they’re responsible for the success of establishing the marathon race as a sporting event, or they’re known for breaking world records, those who have been made famous by their marathon success make up the past and present-day history of long-distance running.
If you want to know more about the people that made the marathon, or you’re looking for a running role model, read on to find out about the world’s most famous marathon-running talent.
Abebe Bikila was an Ethiopian long-distance runner who rose to fame when he broke the world record for completing the marathon distance at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Not only did he set a new personal best and marathon world record, but Bikila did so whilst barefoot!
Abebe Bikila went on to become double Olympic champion, winning the marathon four years later at the Olympic games in Tokyo, breaking his own world record in the process.
Bikila is regarded as the man to led the way in establishing a reputation for East-African nations as great exporters of running talent. Unfortunately, Bikila suffered an early death as a result of a car accident, but his legacy lives on in the long list of African marathoners that have made the marathon such a great event.
Rosa Mota is a Portuguese marathoner who made a name for herself in the world of marathoning when she began her streak of finishing in first place at marathons around the globe, starting with the 1982 Athens marathon and finishing with the London marathon in 1991.
Thanks to her achievements, Mota is widely regarded as the greatest female marathon runner of all time. Not only did she place first in 15 marathons, but while doing so, she also became the only female runner to be the Olympic, world and European champion at the same time!
A heavyweight when it comes to talking about the history of marathoning, Ethiopian runner Haile Gebrselassie was a true champion in marathon running, keeping his success consistent as well as frequent.
His major achievements include a four-times winning streak at the Berlin marathon between 2006 and 2009 and a hat-trick at the Dubai marathon at each event from 2008 to 2010.
In addition to his wins, he also set and broke records, his most recent one being 2:03:59, which he set at the 2008 Berlin marathon. Although this record has since been broken, Haile continues to be regarded as a major figure in the history of long-distance running.
Paula Radcliffe is one of the most famous Brits to be recognised for her running achievements.
During her career, which spanned from 1997, Radcliffe enjoyed a streak of marathon wins in London, Chicago and New York City, setting a world record of 2:15:23 at the 2003 London Marathon, which she still holds today.
In addition to her many sporting achievements and records, Radcliffe has won an array of titles including BBC Sports Personality of the Year, World Athlete of the Year, and even an MBE!
Her stream of achievements, as well as her various honours which recognise her as a source of inspiration, are exactly why Paula Radcliffe is still discussed as a major figure in the world of marathon running today, fifteen years on from when she set the world record.
Paul Kibii Tergat
During his marathon career, which spanned from 2001 to 2008, Kenyan runner Paul Tergat established himself as a big name at almost ever marathon event he attended.
In his first three marathons, which took place in London and Chicago, Tergat finished in second place. Following his streak of near-victory, Tergat went on to set a new world record time for completing the marathon distance at the 2003 Berlin Marathon with a time of 2:04:55. Although this time would be broken in 2007 by Haile Gebrselassie, Tergat continued his winning streak elsewhere.
German long-distance specialist, Irina Mikitenko, made a name for herself in marathon running when she finished in second place at the 2007 Berlin Marathon – her first ever marathon. She went on to be victorious at the London Marathon in 2008, where she finished in first place.
Mikitenko’s remarkable talent and achievements were officially recognised in November of 2008 when she was named the best performer in various international marathons in the previous two years due to her high rates of success compared with her reduced amount of marathon-running experience compared to her peers.
Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich
Another big name flying the flag for Kenya on the winners' podiums of marathon events around the world, Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich is incredibly famous for his running achievements.
Finishing in first place more frequently than in any other position, Kiprotich once also held the world record time for completing 42.195 kilometres – a record he set in 2013 at the Berlin Marathon.
Kiprotich continues to be successful in his running achievements today, finishing the Tokyo, London and New York City marathon in first place most recently. However, in 2018, when Kiprotich came to reclaim his world record title, the Tokyo marathon saw Kiprotich drop out at the 15-kilometre mark after he started experiencing stomach problems while running.
Dennis Kipruto Kimetto
Rival and fellow Kenyan of running legend Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich, Dennis Kipruto Kimetto was the holder of the world record time for completing the marathon until 2018 with a time of 2:02:57.
Kimetto made his marathon debut at the Berlin Marathon in 2014. Finishing impressively in second place, Kimetto’s time of 2:04:16 saw him set the record for the fastest marathon debut in history.
Kimetto’s marathon winning streak began in 2013 at the Tokyo marathon when he finished with a time of 2:06:50. His most recent marathon victory was at the Berlin Marathon in 2014, where he set a new world record time of 2:04:57.
Sir Mo Farah
Another famous name who has put team GB on the map at various international events is Sir Mohamed Farah.
Arriving in the UK at 8 years of age after becoming a refugee due to conflict in Somalia, his birth country, Mo went from barely being able to communicate in English to not only representing Great Britain in long-distance running events, but becoming the most successful British track athlete in the history of the modern Olympic games.
Mo Farah became a household name in 2012 when he became double Olympic champion at the 2012 Summer Olympic games in London in the 10Km and 5Km events.
Farah’s marathon career, which began more recently, in 2018, saw him finish in third place at the London marathon, setting a new British record, before crossing the finish line of the Chicago marathon victorious – this was his first ever win over 26.2 miles.
The humble runner known as Mo, famous for his victory celebration, the ‘Mobot’, was honoured with a CBE for his services to athletics. Being praised for his achievements by many figures of authority in government and in sport, Mo became Sir Mo in 2013.
Another big name in the long list of successful Kenyan runners, Eliud Kipchoge is the current world record holder for the best time over the marathon distance with a time of 2:01:39, which he achieved at the 2018 Berlin Marathon.
Prior to setting this record, Kipchoge had already proven his prowess as a leading name in long-distance running when he placed first in many other international marathons, including the London, Chicago, Berlin, Rotterdam and Hamburg marathons.
In fact, Kipchoge’s marathon debut in Hamburg in 2013 didn’t only see him finish in first place, but he also set a new course record in the process.
Continuing his streak of gold medals, it’s clear that Eliud Kipchoge’s career is just getting started.
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