Most would consider anyone who is capable of running a half or a full marathon an amazing example of human perseverance. There are some elite marathoners that go beyond what human expectancies could ever imagine. Marathon runners may not normally be the ones who get the endorsements and fame, but they get the adoration of athletes around the world.
Some are famous for doing more than seems humanly possible; others are famous for the obstacles that stood in their way. For those of us who know how grueling it is to pass a marathon finish line, we know that these marathon greats deserve to be honored and their story to be told.
Obviously, the most famous marathon runner of all time is the messenger who ran from the battle of Athens to the town of Greece to warn of the impending battle that was to besiege the city confines. The Greek messenger Pheidippides tops the list of famous marathoners specifically because he the one who the marathon was created in honor of. No one truly knows how long it took for him to go 26.2 miles from the battle to the city center, but no one really cares either. Running as fast as his feet could carry him, his mission was to save modern-day democracy, and luckily he succeeded.
Emil Zatopek from Czechoslovakia not only broke the 10 kilometers record for running it in 29 minutes flat, at the 1952 Olympics, as a walk-on last minute, he also won the 10,000 and 5000-meter race just days after his historic record-breaking win. He is also famed with breaking over 17 world records of the time. A true natural, not many of us can imagine winning an Olympic medal on the fly. Not only did he run it cold, never having trained, but he also broke the record doing so.
Abebe Bikila should appeal to a new generation of barefoot runners. All the craze in running today, he not only won the 1960 and 1964 Olympics, being from Ethiopia, where shoes were not the norm, but he also did so while running barefoot. The first ever to win two Olympic marathons in a row, his primitive training efforts, and splash onto the running scene gave the lesser known nations hope that they could enter and win alongside the greater nations of the world.
Katherine Switzer was the first woman in the United States to enter into the Boston Marathon, which up until that time, only admitted men. She won the NYC Marathon in 1974 and subsequently was the first female to be named in Runner’s World as the Female Runner of the Decade. Breaking the glass ceiling, and creating pavement tracks for millions of women that have come after, she opened the marathon to female athletes and gave them the power to dream of one day competing in a male-dominated sport.
Lasse Viren from Finland exemplifies the “if you fall get back up” philosophy. After falling in the 12th lap during the 1972 10,000-meter, he still went on to win. He also won four gold medals in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. Can you imagine how far out ahead he must have been to pick himself up and make it to the finish line first? That is true Finnish "
Carl Lewis from the United States is famed for matching his predecessor Jesse Owens marathon record in 1984. Winning four gold medals in 1988, 1992 and 1996, he also won eight world championships. Tying his infamous hero, the two will forever live in infamy.
Grete Waitz from Norway is one of the most revered runners of her time and since. She is famed for winning nine NYC Marathons from the years 1978 to 1988. Not just winning the races, she did so while setting world records in the three years from 1978 to 1980. She is likely part of the reason that running went mainstream. Being a sensation, she taught people around the globe that running was something that anyone could engage in and win at. She still holds the record time of Stockholm Marathon. She won many battles, but unfortunately not the one thoughest one. In 2011, Marathon queen Grete died after a longer battle with cancer, aged only 57.
Haile Gebrselassie, also a native of Ethiopia, is famed for winning the Berlin Marathon and doing so four times. To add to his credit are over 27 world records which bear his name.
Catherine Ndereba from Kenya is not only a four-time champion of the Boston Marathon, but she is also one of the first long-distance runners to try her hand and win an ultra marathon. She also won two silver medals at the 1999 Olympics. Being famed as the fastest woman in the world, she holds the records for the fastest times in the 5k, 12k, 15k and ten-mile races.
Scott is a United States runner who has proved himself to be one of the best ultramarathoners of all time. Winning the Hardrock 100, the Spartathlon, The Badwater Ultramarathon and the Western States one hundred mile race for an astonishing seven years in a row, he is a force to be reckoned with. Running the one hundred mile race in a record 24 hours, his record is likely to stand the test of time.
Geoffrey Mutai ran the 2011 Boston Marathon in the fastest recorded time in history. Making it 26.2 miles in 2:03:02, that is the time that it takes most to run a half marathon. He is also the NCY Marathon record holder and has the record for running a half marathon in less than 60 minutes. Still running on the circuit today, there are likely many more records for him to break and incredible feats for him to make us stand in awe.These famous athletes both inspire and shock us for their determination, their ability to beat the odds, and to beat out others in the field. You may not be among those who can win Olympic medals, or you may, but crossing the finish line at any pace will make you a winner.