Every sport has its heroes either past or present and running is no different, so in this blog we have decided to celebrate the most popular athletes of all time, that through their actions have made running and athletics a sport to be immensely proud of, and also by their brave contributions have become famous all around the world.
Who can possibly forget the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, when the world was on the cusp of war and the Nazi party governed Germany with an iron fist. Owens hated prejudice and fought against it in America, but he also considered the Nazi party and their propaganda outrageous. They considered African-American and Africans not worthy to be called human beings, so he set about to prove them wrong in their own back yard. During the Games he won four gold medals and set three world records, and when he stood on the podium, the world joined together to celebrate his victory against racism and Nazism.
Roger Bannister is the British athlete who achieved fame by being the fist person to run a mile in under four minutes. He was also an immensely influential runner who inspired others around him. And to add to his record breaking time for the mile a year later he won Gold at the European Championships for the mile and a half race. He was named as Sportsman of the Year in recognition of his achievements by Sports Illustrated.
Abebe Bikila came to world prominence when he ran in the 1960 Olympics Marathon without wearing shoes, and not only that he won the gold medal. His Gold was the first ever by an African runner, and this amazing athlete became an overnight sensation. Four years later he repeated his actions and took gold in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. And this made him the first ever runner to win consecutive marathons in the Olympics. Tragically Bikila was killed following injuries he received in a prior a car crash.
Our second American runner is Lee Evans, who will be always remembered for his performance in the 1968 Olympics, when he set the record for the four hundred meters dash. The time Evans set of 43.86 seconds remained a record for twenty years. In 1983 he was enrolled in the United States Track and Field Hall of Fame.
Our first female runner is Katherine Switzer, and her biggest achievement was to be the first woman to compete in a marathon as a qualified athlete. The city of Boston allowed her to run in the race even though in most American states at the time females were not allowed to compete. Switzer wished to stand up for female runners all over the world, and she persistently harried officials to obtain a registration number. There was one unsavory moment when a steward tried to forcibly stop her from running but backed off when her boyfriend challenged him. By finishing the race, she became an instant icon for all women who wished to compete in sports.
We continue our look at the greatest ever runners of all time in the second part of our blog when we will look at the careers of Steve Prefontaine, among others.