The Most Famous Marathon Runners in History

The marathon is a long-distance foot race with a distance of 42.195 kilometers. It is usually run as a road race but the race can be done on trail routes too. The marathon race was instituted in commemoration of the fabled run of the Greek soldier named Pheidippides. He was a messenger who reported the victory by running from the Battle of Marathon to Athens. By running or with a run/walk strategy, a marathon can be completed. 

More than 800 marathons are held throughout the world each year. Also, there are wheelchair divisions. In a marathon race, some famous athletes have participated along with thousands of participants. 

The Most Famous Marathon Runners in History

Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens

An American marathon runner is known for winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics. These medals were the clear statement against the Nazi propaganda presented in Germany which portrayed ethnic Africans as minor. On May 25, 1935, Owens set three world records and tied for the fourth. The highest honor bestowed on America’s best athletics athlete each year bears his name. 

Roger Bannister

Roger Bannister

An English marathon runner is known for running the first mile in under four minutes. Bannister won the gold medal at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in the 1-mile race in 1954. In the same years, he won the gold medal at the European Championship in a 1,500-meter race. When he failed to secure a medal at the 1952 Olympics, Bannister set a new record of going a mile in less than four minutes. 

After becoming the first person to cross the four-minute mile record, Bannister received the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year Award. 

Abebe Bikila

Abebe Bikila

Bikila is known for winning an Olympic marathon in 1960 by running barefoot. He was the first Sub-Saharan African who won a gold medal at the Olympics. He followed his victory in 1960 with a second Olympic gold medal in 1964, Tokyo. It made him the first runner to twice win an Olympic marathon race. 

Unfortunately, in 1969, he suffered a traffic car accident and left him partially paralyzed. Due to brain hemorrhage, died after four years of a car accident. 

Lee Evans

Lee Evans

Lee Evans, an American marathon runner is known for his performance in the 1968 Olympics. He set a world record in the 400 meters in 43.86 seconds. This record lasted for twenty years. As host to his 400 x 4-meter relay team, he helped set a second world record and won another gold medal at Olympics. In 1983, Evans became a member of the United States Track and Field Hall of Fame.

Kathrine Switzer

Kathrine Switzer

Kathrine Switzer is the first American woman to complete the Boston Marathon with a numbered entry. In this era, women were not allowed to register as runners in the Boston Marathon but she managed to get a number. During the race, an official tried to force her to leave the race but her boyfriends pushed the man away. Switzer was able to become the icon of women’s rights in the United States. 

In 2011, she was introduced to the National Women’s Hall of Fame because she created a social change in society. 

Steve Prefontaine

Steve Prefontaine

Steve Prefontaine, an American marathon runner is known as a racing icon in the United States. He is nicknamed Pre and once held the United States time record in the seven-track events. They ranged from 2,000m to 10,000m. Pre was able to complete them at the same time. He was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine at the age of 19. His career as a marathon runner rekindled his sports in the 1970s. 

Sebastian Coe

Sebastian Coe

Sabastian Co, a British marathon runner is known for dominating the runners in the late 1970s and early 1980s. he won four Olympic medals from 1980 to 1984 Olympics. During his career, he broke three indoor and eight outdoor world records of a marathon race. In 1979 alone, for 41 years, Coe set three of his world records. In the 800m race, his record lasted from 1981 to 1997. 

Later on, Coe went on to have a successful political career. He was the main force behind the choice of London to host the 2012 Olympics. 

Florence Griffith-Joyner

Florence Griffith-Joyner

An American marathon runner, Florence Griffith-Joyner is known as the fastest marathon runner of all time. She set the world records for both 100 and 200-meter races in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. Since then, no female athlete has been able to beat her time record. 

As a result, she won two gold medals and won the third additional gold medal in the 4 x 100-meter relay. Sadly, her life was cut short and she died of an epileptic seizure at the age of 38.

Dean Karnazes

Dean Karnazes

Dean Karnazes, an American marathon runner is the most famous ultramarathon runner in the world. He is known for pushing his limits of endurance racing by accomplishing incredible feats in the running. In 2005, he ran 350 miles without sleeping in 80 hours and 44 minutes. In the following year, he ran fifty marathons in fifty states for fifty consecutive days. Also, he ran from Southern California to New York City in just 75 days. 

Paula Radcliffe

Paula Radcliffe

An English marathon runner is known for winning multiple marathons. Radcliffe holds the world record for the women’s marathon with a time of 2:15:25. She has won New York Marathon three times, Chicago Marathon one time, and London Marathon three times. She has competed in four Olympic games but did not win any medals. 

Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson

Michael John is known for winning multiple gold medals as he holds the Olympic and words records in the 400-meter sprint. Also, he maintained the title of the world’s fastest time in the 300-meter sprint. In 2004, he was inducted into the United States Track and Field Hall of Fame. In the past 25 years, his performance in 1996 was ranked as the greatest sporting moment in marathon running.

Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt, known as the faster person ever is nicknamed Lightning Bolt. He was the first man to hold the world record in the 100- and 200-meter sprints. Also, he participated in 4 x 100-meter relays. He has won in all three events such as in Beijing 2008 and London in 2012. It made him the first man to have 6 Olympic gold medals in the sprint. For four times, he has been named Athlete of the Year by the International Association of Athletics Federations. 

Marathon Runners – Gold Medal Winners

Marathon runners are just like the history of running shoes, starting from Jesse Owens and ending at Usain Bolt. All the above-mentioned marathon runners have set the records for the world in sprints and relays. Also, some of them were able to set new world records and changing the social norms in society. 

Kathrine Switzer was able to get registered in the Boston Marathon and brought a social change in society. It was a time when women were not allowed to run in marathons. Some of the famous marathon runners are still alive, but some has left because of tragic deaths