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ABEBE BIKILA

HE WAS THE FIRST BLACK AFRICAN TO WIN AN OLYMPIC GOLD AND HE CHANGED THE FACE OF DISTANCE RUNNING FOREVER. BUT HIS GLITTERING CAREER AND LIFE WERE TO END IN A TRAGIC WAY
Bikila breaks the tape and wins his second Olympic Marathon gold medal, in Tokyo

To date, the Running Icons Hall of Fame has been populated with a crowd as prestigious as it is varied. From the inspiration of Chris Brasher and Dave Bedford, to the controlled acceleration of Steve Ovett and the raw, extraordinary pace of Michael Johnson, everything that is great about running is, month by month, being revealed.

There is as yet, however, a huge gap in our list - a race of distance runners who have dominated the world stage for the previous three decades, changing the face of athletics along the way. We must now turn our attention to the great Africans, from Yifter and Rono, to Keino and Kiptanui, all the way through to Gebrselassie and Bekele.

They ran with the ease and grace of greats, disinclined to show discomfort, indulging in their own, private races while others slogged along in their wake. From the Rift Valley, Nandi, Arsi and Shewa, they showed the planet just what their nations had to offer, redefining an entire sport. Any of them could be said to have obtained iconic status, and in time they doubtless will, but for now we’ll concentrate on just one of their number.

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About Men's Running

I started running in the mid 1980s. Ask anyone around at the time and they’ll tell you it was the heyday of British middle and long distance running. I got swept along by the Coe versus Ovett battle of the Moscow Olympics and the then addition of Cram for LA in 1984. Britons ruled the world and I loved every second of the battles, the highs, the lows, the medals and the media. These guys were my inspiration and I wanted to be them. They were the reason I started running and it was no surprise that my chosen events were 800 and 1500m. That I was best at these was just an added bonus. There are so many influential figures in our brilliant sport. Some are well known, others less so. So we decided to choose our favourites so that you could also get a little sprinkling of inspiration. Whether it’s Dean Karnazes eating pizza by the roadside or Ron Hill running every day for more than 50 years, we know there’ll be something for everyone. Read and get inspired and hit the road for your next run!