Paula Radcliffe is a retired distance runner, credited with winning the London Marathon and the New York Marathon three times each. Born into an athletic family, she emerged as a running talent by the time she was in her teens, winning the world junior cross-country title at the age of nineteen, eventually. She held the Women's World Marathon Record from 2003 to 2019.
Ethiopian Olympic legend and businessman, Haile Gebrselassie, a retired long-distance, road and track running athlete, is counted among the greatest distance runners in history. He set 27 world records in athletics and broke 61 Ethiopian national records. His achievements include winning two Olympic gold medals, four World Championship titles, four World Indoor Championship titles and one World Half Marathon Championship.
Ethiopian marathon runner, Abebe Bikil,a became the first black African Olympic gold medalist at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. Four years later, he won his second gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. He created world record both the times. A pioneer in long-distance running, he participated in a total of 16 marathons.
Tom Longboat was an Onondaga athlete who specialized in distance running. Nicknamed the bulldog of Britannia, Longboat also served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force as a soldier during the First World War. In 1996, Tom Longboat was honored posthumously with an induction into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.
Indian Sikh marathon runner Fauja Singh, who later moved to the U.K., made history by becoming the oldest person to complete a marathon, at age 100. His biography, Fauja Singh Keeps Going, became a bestseller. It is believed, the death of his fifth son motivated him to follow his passion.
Alberto Salazar is an American former long-distance runner who won the silver medal at the 1982 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Rome, Italy. After his retirement from the sport, Salazar served as the head coach for the Nike Oregon Project and received the 2013 IAAF Coaching Achievement Award in Monaco. He was later banned for doping and sexual offenses.
Winner of four Olympic golds, three of which came from the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, Czech long-distance runner Emil Zatopek came to be known as the Czech Locomotive and The Bouncing Czech for his speed. He lost his Communist Party membership for criticizing the 1968 Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia.
Ethiopian long-distance runner Kenenisa Bekele is not just a 3-time Olympic gold medalist but has also won the World Championship gold 5 times. He also has 11 World Cross Country Championship gold medals in his kitty. Initially a master of the 5,000m and 10,000m categories, he later focused on marathons.
Ethiopian distance runner Tirunesh Dibaba scripted history by becoming the youngest female World Champion, in 2003, when she was a little over 18 years. She is also the first female to win the Olympic 5,000m/10,000m double. The 5-time World Champion is also a 3-time Olympic gold medalist.
Zola Budd is a South African former athlete who used to compete in long-distance and middle-distance running. Budd represented Great Britain at the 1984 Olympic Games before representing South Africa at the 1992 Olympic Games. Zola Budd also took part in the 1985 and 1986 World Cross Country Championships, winning gold medals on both occasions.
Spiridon Louis was a Greek water carrier-turned-national hero. Louis achieved widespread popularity after becoming the first person to win the modern-day Olympic marathon at the 1896 Olympics in Athens. A former soldier, Louis is an example of an early rags-to-riches story where he wins the Olympic medal at a crucial moment and later becomes a police officer.
Grete Waitz was a Norwegian marathon runner who became the first female runner to complete a marathon in less than two and a half hours in 1979. A former world record holder, Waitz won a record nine New York City Marathons between 1978 and 1988. Grete Waitz is also remembered for winning the silver medal at the 1984 Olympic Games.
Carlos Lopes is a Portuguese retired athlete who specialized in long-distance running. He is best known for winning the gold medal in the men's marathon event at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He was the first Olympic gold medalist from Portugal. Carlos Lopes also won three gold medals at the World Cross Country Championships between 1976 and 1985.
Feyisa Lilesa is an Ethiopian athlete who specializes in long-distance running. He achieved popularity in 2010 when he became the youngest man to complete the men's marathon at the NN Rotterdam Marathon under 2:06. He went on to win a bronze medal at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu. Feyisa Lilesa also won a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics.
Legendary Finnish track and field athlete Hannes Kolehmainen was one of the Flying Finns and had won 4 Olympic gold medals and a silver. Known for undergoing rigorous training sessions, he also maintained a vegetarian diet. Though a bricklayer by profession, he had a sports-loving family and 2 brothers who were long-distance runners.
Ethiopian Olympic legend Degaga "Mamo" Wolde, an international distance running star, was a cross-country, road and track running athlete. He won gold medal in men’s marathon event and silver medal in 10000 m event at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico. Wolde bagged his third Olympic medal, a bronze, at the 1972 Olympic marathon in Munich, West Germany.
One of the most successful female long-distance runners of her time, Norwegian athlete Ingrid Kristiansen was a World Champion and a European Champion. However, she missed out on an Olympic medal, as she finished 4th in the women’s marathon. She was also a talented cross-country skier in her teens.