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 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.
Wim Hof, or The Iceman, is a Dutch extreme athlete and motivational speaker who holds a Guinness record for the fastest half-marathon completed barefoot on ice/snow. He has also devised the Wim Hof Method, which helps one gain control over one’s body through extreme cold tolerance.
Dean Karnazes began running for fun while in kindergarten; taking diversionary routes while returning home from school. Slowly, he started taking it more seriously, running a marathon to the South Pole in 2002, embarking on the Endurance 50: 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 consecutive days in 2006. Currently a businessperson, he has also written a book on marathon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Genzebe Dibaba is an Ethiopian athlete who specializes in middle and long-distance running. She is best known for winning a silver medal at the 2016 Olympic Games. Prior to 2016, she had success at the 2015 World Championships where she won gold and a bronze medal. Genzebe Dibaba has also won five gold medals at the World Indoor Championships.
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.
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.
Known as The Running God and The Golden Greek, Yiannis Kouros was the greatest ultramarathon runner from Greece. Born into poverty, he was forced into manual labor at age five and decided to run professionally at age 16 only. Often compared to Pheidippides, he later played the character in a movie.
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 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.
Tiki Gelana is an Ethiopian athlete who specializes in long-distance running. She achieved popularity in 2012 when she won the gold medal and created a new Olympic record in the women's marathon event at the Olympic Games in London. From 2012 to 2017, Tiki Gelana held the Ethiopian national record for marathon with a personal best time of 2:18:58.
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.
Gezahegne Abera is an Ethiopian athlete who specializes in marathon races. He is best known for winning the gold medal at the 2000 Olympics. He won the medal at the age of 22, becoming the youngest marathon winner since 1932 when Juan Carlos Zabala won the race. Abera went on to win the gold medal at the 2001 World Championships.
Two-time Boston Marathon-winning Ethiopian long-distance runner Lelisa Desisa has also been a World Champion, an All-Africa Games Champion, and an African Junior Champion. A road running expert, he had also won the 2018 New York Marathon. His personal best has been 10,000m in a little over 27 minutes.
Ethiopian long-distance runner Selemon Barega is not just an Olympic gold medalist but has also won a World Championship silver medal. Considered a rising star in the racing circle, he excels in 3,000m, 5,000m, and 10,000m. He has also been a Diamond League champion in 5,000m.
Arthur Lydiard was a New Zealand athlete and coach. He is credited with popularizing running as a sport and making it mainstream across the sporting world. Arthur Lydiard is also credited with coaching legendary athletes like Peter Snell, who won two gold medals at the 1964 Summer Olympics under Lydiard's tutelage.
Satcha Pretto is a Honduran journalist best known for appearing as a news co-anchor in the popular American Spanish language television show, Despierta America. Over the years, she has received many recognitions for her work in broadcast journalism. In 2017, People en Espanol magazine included her in their 25 Most Powerful Women list.
Wang Junxia is a Chinese retired long-distance runner who currently holds the world record for 3000-metre run. From 1993 to 2016, she was the world record holder for the 10,000-metre run. After winning the 1993 World Championships, Wang went on to win the gold medal at the 1994 Asian Games for 10,000 meters. She won an Olympic gold in 1996.