Ever considered running a marathon?
Wow, so much comes to mind.
Will I be able to run that far? If I do, what effect will all that pounding of the asphalt have on my body, my joints in particular? Running 42,195 kilometres is no mean feat, for anyone.
The marathon really is a special event and many, around the globe, find themselves glued to their TV screens, to watch the exploits of a truly elite group of human beings, some of whom almost any passerby can name.
Who, then, are these people who dedicate themselves to take taking their bodies to places that very few have gone before, pushing physical boundaries to amazing limits?
A marathon athlete, typically, becomes known to the general public when she or he participates at large, international events like the Commonwealth or Olympic Games. It is events such as these that excite people to the extent that a good many, around the world, go out to buy a pair of running shoes and take them out for a jog.
These marathon runners, who have become folk heroes to many, through their almost superhuman exploits and achievements have firmly put the marathon at the top of the list of athletic events to watch and, almost in a sense, for us to ‘participate’ in. They have over time created a fine history to be proud of and rocketed some of the marathon’s top proponents to cult status amongst fans of the event.
In terms of running, are you searching for a role model or do you want to discover more about the elite group who have made the marathon into such an iconic event?
Read on and uncover some of the marathon’s top achievers.
Adebe Bikila was thrust into the world spotlight when he set a new world record for the marathon at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome.
What was so special about this achievement?
He did so barefooted!
And he wasn’t done yet! He persevered and became double Olympic Champion, winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics, breaking the record he had set at the previous Olympic Games.
Bikila is credited with opening doors for East Africans nations, which became widely regarded as exporters of great long-distance athletes. The world was, unfortunately robbed of this great talent when Bikila suffered an early death in a car accident. However, he will always be remembered as the Kenyan athlete who paved the way for so many of his compatriots to shine on the world stage.
Rosa Mota, one of Portugal’s foremost athletes, became famous as a marathon runner when she started a string of marathon wins at the 1982 Olympic Games, ending with the London Marathon in 1991.
Part of list of accomplishments is winning a long list of major city marathons, including the marathons run in Boston (1987-88), Chicago (1983-84), London (1991), Rotterdam (1982) and Osaka (1990).
All in all, she placed first in 14 out of 21 marathons and, in doing so, became the only female runner, as at 2017, to become the European, World and Olympic champion at the same time. Through her world-beating performances, between 1982 and 2014, she was widely regarded as the greatest female marathon runner of all time.
A very versatile long-distance runner, Haile Gebrselassie, is an Ethiopian marathon athlete, who has excelled on an international level, at various distances.
Gebrselassie can be described as ‘ever-moving or evolving’: he has won numerous races between the distances of 1500 metres and the marathon, having moved through various forms of races – outdoor, indoor, cross-country and eventually road-running.
He has broken 61 Ethiopian national records (800m to marathon) and set 27 world records.
He took first place in the 10 000 metre-Olympic event twice and placed first in the distance at four World Championship events. His impressive list of consecutive wins is truly astounding: four-times winner of the Berlin Marathon (2006 – 2009), four-time winner of the Dubai Marathon (2008 to 2010) and was crowned as the indoor world champion no fewer than four times. He was also the World Half Marathon Champion in 2001.
He won the Berlin Marathon, at the age of 35, in a world record time of 2:03:59. Although this record time has been surpassed by several athletes in recent years, Haile Gebrselassie is still regarded as one of the greatest exponents of the marathon distance and was named by New African magazine as one of the Top 100 most influential Africans in 2011.
Outside of Africa, Paula Radcliffe is recognised as a Briton who has done extremely well over the marathon distance.
Paula has stamped her authority on the marathon by taking first place at several major events, including New York, Chicago and London. In a career, which caught the spotlight in 1997, Paula completed the 2003 London marathon, in a record time of 2:15:23, a record which still stands today.
Not only has Paula set numerous records and pegged many achievements to her name, she has also been awarded several titles by various institutions, including World Athlete of the Year, BBC Sports Personality of the Year and an OBE (Order of the British Empire). Nearly twenty years after setting a world marathon time, Paula Radcliffe is still regarded as a very influential personality in the world of marathon running.
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Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich
Another famous Kenyan, who specialises in long-distance running, is Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich. He has successfully competed in events, ranging from 10 to 42 kilometres, his third-place (bronze) finish at the 2012 Summer Olympics, bearing testimony to his immense talent. He has finished no fewer than four marathons in under 2 hours 4 minutes, including the 2013 Berlin Marathon where he set a new world record of 2:03:23.
Kipsang has also won several major marathons, some twice, including the Frankfurt Marathon, in 2010 and 2011, and the London Marathon in 2012 and 2014. He has, further, outshone his opposition at the New York Marathon (2014) and the Tokyo Marathon (2017).He, currently, still holds the twelfth-best time for the half marathon (58:59), completing each kilometre at an average speed of 2 minutes 46,62 seconds.
Catherine Nyambura Ndereba
Catherine Nyambura Ndereba, (born on 21 July 1972), is a Kenyan runner who has achieved great things in the field of marathon running. Described by Philip Herbst (Chicago Post 2008) as the greatest women’s marathoner of all time, Catherine won the marathon twice at the World Championships in Athletics and achieved silver medals at the Summer Olympics in 2004 and 2008.
A four-time winner of the Boston Marathon, she broke the marathon record for women at the Chicago Marathon, setting a new world record with a time of 2:18:47. Nicknamed “Catherine the Great”, she lives with her family in Nairobi and has two siblings, Samuel and Anastasia, both of whom are marathon runners.
Dennis Kipruto Kimetto
Wilson Kipsang Kimetto is another Kenyan runner who has made his mark on the world stage.
At the 39th BMW Berlin Marathon (2012), he recorded the fastest marathon debut, stopping the clock at 2:04:16, finishing in second place 1 second behind first-placed Geoffrey Matai. It was the fifth best time in the race up to that point.
He set the world record, a time of 2:02:57 in September 2014, again at the Berlin Marathon, clipping 26 seconds (a second off every mile of the race) off the previous best time set by fellow-Kenyan, Wilson Kipsang.
In the week before the race, the reserved Kenyan had actually predicted the he would complete the race in record time. His new record time stood until his compatriot, Eliud Kipchoge, eclipsed it in 2018 with a time of 2:01:39.
2013 was a special year for Kimetto. He set new course records for two World Marathon Major events. He finished the Tokyo Marathon in 2:06:50 and recorded the fastest time ever in the USA, in Chicago, clocking a time of 2:03:45. The next year he broke the world record in Berlin, becoming the first person to ever run a marathon in under 2:03.
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Uta Pippig was the first woman marathon athlete to officially take first place at the Boston Marathon in three consecutive years (1994 – 1996). She also finished first in the Berlin Marathon thrice (1990, 1992 and 1995) and in the New York Marathon (1993). Uta was part of the German national team at the Olympic Games in both 1992 and 1996 and was placed third in the World 15km Road Race Championship in 1991.
She became the third-fastest female runner over the distance when she recorded her marathon best time of 2:21:45 in 1994 at the Boston Marathon. She showed phenomenal grit and determination when she went on to win this same marathon, two years later, fighting her way through severe menstrual cramps, bleeding and diarrhoea. Over the last five miles, she chased down the lead runner, Kenya’s Tegla Loroupe, and closed the gap of some 222 metres to win the race – the mark of a true champion!
Sir Mo Farah
Sir Mohamed Farah was awarded a CBE for his services to athletics in the United Kingdom in 2013. He arrived as a Somalian refugee in the UK, not being able to speak much English, and went on to become the most celebrated British Olympic track athlete.
He first appeared on the radar when he was victorious in both the 5 km and 10km events at the London Olympics of 2012.
His marathon break-through came in 2018, when he finished the London Marathon in third place, setting a new British record for the distance. He recorded his first marathon win at the Chicago Marathon with a time of 2:05:11, the eighth fastest time for the race and a record for any European runner.
Ultimately, who is the world’s fastest marathon runner?
Kenya has produced quite a list of brilliant long-distance runners.
Eliud Kipchoge’s star is currently the shining bright amongst marathon runners. Such is the talent of this man that he not only won his debut marathon (in Hamburg), but set a new course record. After this success, Kipchoge went on to win many major international marathons including the Chicago, Berlin, London, Hamburg and Rotterdam marathons.
He is the current holder of the world record time for the event, with a time of 2:01:39, recorded at the Berlin Marathon in 2018. He is the fastest marathon runner in the world as he is the only person who has ever run the marathon in under two hours. This record has not officially been recognised as the race was so heavily ‘engineered’. However, nothing detracts from the fact that, at this moment, this is the fastest marathon runner ever! To boot, he is also a three-time Olympic winner!
Do you think that you’re a marathon athlete? Contact a running coach to put you on the right track!
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