NUMBER 10: Abebe Bikila

This is the first post in a series I am doing on the 10 greatest male and 10 greatest female distance runners of all-time. I am considering all athletes who competed in 1500m and up.

To properly rank these athletes, I devised an algorithm that considers time, distance When ranking these athletes, I considered time period, distance, time, historical significance, Olympic performances, WRs, etc.

Abebe Bikila is most famous for winning the 1960 Olympic Marathon in Rome barefoot. However, his significance in the history of the sport is so much more! He set an Olympic record that year of 2:15:16 and he became the first runner from East Africa to win a gold medal. Not only that, Bikila came back in Tokyo four years later and won gold again. In Toyko, he ran 2:12:11 – and won by over four minutes. He set a new world record. Bikila is still one of only two people two win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in the marathon and the other, Waldemar Cierpinski, has been tied to the East German doping program.

Most significantly, Bikila modernized the marathon. To put it in perspective, at the London Olympics, on a fast course, nearly a half century later, only seven men ran faster than 2:12:11.

Abebe Bikila: one of the ten greatest male distance runners of all-time.


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