Famous Runners

Competitive running has been around for centuries with the first Olympic race taking place in 776 B.C in Greece. There have been many famous runners throughout history that have broken records and amazed people with their endurance, quickness and skill. Below is a list of some of the most famous runners of all time.

Famous Runners

Jesse-Owens Roger-Bannister Abebe-Bikila
Jesse Owens (1913 – 1980)
Nationality: American
Known For: Winning four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics.
Jesse Owen’s four gold medals in the Berlin Olympics made a clear statement against the Nazi propoganda present in Germany that portrayed ethnic Africans as being lesser individuals. On May 25th, 1935, Owens set three track and field world records and tied with a fourth. The highest honor given to the USA’s top track and field athlete each year is named after him.
Roger Bannister (1929 – Present)
Nationality: English
Inventor: Running the first mile timed under four minutes.
Roger Bannister was the winner of the gold medal at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in the 1 mile race in 1954. In that same year he won gold in the European Championships in the 1,500 meter race. When he failed to medal in the 1952 Olympics, Bannister set a new goal to run a mile under four minutes. After becoming the first person to break the four minute mile barrier, Bannister was awarded Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year.
Abebe Bikila (1932 – 1973)
Nationality: Ethiopian
Known For: Winning an Olympic marathon gold medal in 1960 while running barefoot.
Abebe Bikila was the very first Sub-Saharan African to ever win a gold medal at the Olympics. He followed up his 1960 win with a second Olympic gold medal in 1964 in Tokyo – making him the first runner to win an Olympic marathon race twice. In 1969 he was in a tragic car accident that left him partially paralyzed. Four year later he died from a cerebral hemorrage.
Lee-Evans Katherine-Switzer Steve-Prefontaine
Lee Evans (1947 – Present)
Country: American
Inventor: His performance at the 1968 Olympics.
At the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, Lee Evans set a world record for the 400 meter dash at 43.86 seconds. This record would stand for nearly twenty years. As the anchorman for his 400 x 4 meter relay team he helped to set a second world record and achieve another gold at the same Olympics. Evans became a member of the United States Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1983.
Kathrine Switzer (1947 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: First woman to compete in the Boston Marathon with a numbered entry.
At a time when women were not allowed to be registered runners in the Boston Marathon, Kathrine Switzer managed to get a number. During the race an official tried to forceably remove her from the race, but her boyfriend shoved the man away. Switzer successfully completed the race and became a women’s rights icon. In 2011, she was entered in to National Women’s Hall of Fame for creating social change.
Steve Prefontaine (1951 – 1975)
Nationality: American
Known For: Being a running icon in the United States.
Steve Prefontaine, nicknamed “Pre,” once held the American time records in seven track events, ranging from the 2,000 m to the 10,000 m, all at the same time. He was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine at the young age of 19. His running career is credited for reigniting an interesting in the sport during the 1970’s.
Sebastian-Coe Florence-Griffith-Joyner Linford-Christie
Sebastian Coe (1956 – Present)
Nationality: British
Known For: Being a dominating runner during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
Sebastian Coe won four Olympic medals between the 1980 and 1984 Olympic Games. In his career, he broke three indoor world records and eight outdoor world records. In 1979 alone, during a span of 41 days, Coe set three of his world records. His record time in the 800 meter race lasted from 1981 until 1997. Sebastian Coe later went on to have a successful career in politics and was the main force behind London being chosen to host the 2012 Olympics.
Florence Griffith-Joyner (1959 – 1998)
Nationality: American
Known For: Considered the fastest woman ever.
Florence Griffith-Joyner set the world record for both the 100 and 200 meter races at the 1988 Olympics Games in Seoul, South Korea. Since then, no female athlete has come close to beating her times. These performances garnered her two gold medals and she won an additional third gold at the games for her participation in the 4 x 100 meter relay. Her life was cut short when she tragically died from an epileptic seizure at the age of 38.
Linford Christie (1960 – Present)
Nationality: British
Known For: Being the most successful British male athlete in history.
Linford Cicero Christie stands as the first and only British man to win the gold medal in the 100 meter race in the Commonwealth Games, European Championships, World Championships and the Olympic Games. Upon retirement he had won 24 medals in major championships with 10 of them being for first place.
Carl-Lewis Dean-Karnazes Michael-Johnson
Carl Lewis (1961 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: Successfully participating in 4 Olympics.
Carl Lewis won a total of 9 Olympic gold medals and 8 World Championships gold medals in his career. Track & Field News named him Athlete of the year from 1982 to 1984. He set world records while participating in the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 meter relays as well as in the 100 meter dash. The International Olympic Committee voted him Sportsman of the Century.
Dean Karnazes (1962 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: Being the most famous ultramarathon runner in the world.
Known for pushing the limits of endurance, Dean Karnazes has accomplished many amazing running feats. In 2005 he ran 350 miles without sleeping in just 80 hours and 44 minutes. In 2006 he ran in fifty marathons in fifty states within fifty consecutive days. Once he ran from Southern California to New York City in just 75 days.
Michael Johnson (1967 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: Winning multiple gold medals.
Michael Johnson holds the Olympic and world records for the 400 meter sprint. He also still holds the world’s fastest time for the 300 meter sprint. In his career he has won four Olympic gold medals and eight World Championship gold medals. Johnson was inducted into the United States Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2004 and his 1996 200 meter performance was also listed as the best track and field moment in the past 25 years.
Paula-Radcliffe Scott-Jurek Haile-Gebrselassie
Paula Radcliffe (1973 – Present)
Nationality: English
Known For: Winning multiple marathons.
Paula Jane Radcliffe is the female world record holder for marathon running with a time of 2:15:25. She has won the New York Marathon three times, the London Marathon three times and the Chicago Marathon once. She has participated in four Olympic Games, but has not medaled.
Scott Jurek (1973 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: His numerous ultramarathon victories and records.
Scott Jurek has won the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run a record seven times in a row. He holds the U.S. 24 hour distance record at 165.7 miles. Jurek has won the Badwater Ultramarathon two times – Badwater is generally considered to be the world’s hardest marathon. He has also won the Spartathlon three times, the Miwok 100K Trail Race three times and the Leona Divide 50 Mile Run four times, to name a few.
Haile Gebrselassie (1973 – Present)
Nationality: Ethiopian
Known For: Being one of the greatest distance runners of all time.
Haile Gebrselassie won Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2000 for the 10,000 meter race. He also has won four World Championships in this event. Gebrselassie has placed first in the Berlin Marathon four times in a row and three times in a row at the Dubai Marathon. In his career he bested 61 Ethiopian records and went on to set 27 different world records.
Hicham-El-Guerrouj Tyson-Gay Asafa-Powell
Hicham El Guerrouj (1974 – Present)
Nationality: Moroccan
Known For: Widely considered the greatest middle distance runner ever.
Known as the “King of the Mile,” El Guerrouj holds the world record times for the mile, 1,500 meters and the outdoor 2,000 meters races. He won two Olympic gold medals in 2004 in the 1,500 meter and 5,000 meter events. He won four 1,500 meter World Championships in a row – something that no one has ever done before.
Tyson Gay (1982 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: Having the fastest recorded 200 meter time on the planet.
After Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay is considered the second fastest athlete in the world. Gay is a three time World Championships gold medalist and has also won two golds in the World Cup and three in the World Athletics Final. He has twice been honored with the Jesse Owens Award and was the International Association of Athletics Federations Athlete of the year in 2007.
Asafa Powell (1982 – Present)
Nationality: Jamaican
Known For: Breaking the 10 second barrier 88 times in the 100 meter race.
Asafa Powell held the 100 meter world record from 2005 to 2008. In 2008 he was on the world record 4 x 100 meter Jamaican Olympic relay team. Powell has won 5 World Athletics Finals gold medals. In 2013 he tested positive for the banned substance oxilofrine and subsequently is likely to be disqualified from the 2013 World Athletics Championships.
Mo-Farah Allyson-Felix Usain-Bolt
Mo Farah (1983 – Present)
Nationality: British
Known For: Becoming the second person in history to have a double victory at both the World Championships and the Olympics for distance running.
Mo Farah is one of only seven people to ever clock in at under 3:30 in the 1500 meter sprint and under 13 minutes in the 5,000 meter sprint. His two Olympic gold medals in 2012 resulted in him being appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in honor of his athletic contributions to his nation.
Allyson Felix (1985 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: Taking home three gold medals in the 2012 Olympics.
Specializing in the 200 meter race, 4 x 400 meter relay and 4 x 100 meter relay, Allyson Felix won all three of these events in the London Olympics. These wins made her the first female track star to win three gold medals in one Olympics since 1988. Additionally, she took home the gold medal for the 4 x 400 meter relay in 2008 in Bejing.
Usain Bolt (1986 – Present)
Nationality: Jamaician
Known For: Being considered the fastest person ever.
Nicknamed Lightning Bolt,” Usain Bolt was the first man to be the world record holder for both the 100 and 200 meter sprints. He also participates in the 4×100 meter relay. He won Olympic gold in these three events in both Bejing in 2008 and London in 2012 – making him the first man to hold 6 Olympic gold medals for sprinting. He has been named the International Association of Athletics Federations Athlete of the Year four times.
Top