Abebe Bikila a marathon runner from Ethiopia

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All through the history of running there are plenty of legends whose successes enter the folklore. One that stands out is the runner, Abebe Bikila from Ethiopia. Abebe was selected at the eleventh hour to run in the 1960 Rome Olympic marathon for Ethiopia, but had no running shoes, so he ran barefoot and earned the gold medal. The official sponsor, Adidas only had a couple of pairs of running shoes available and none fitted him, giving him little choice. Fortunately he had been carrying out a great deal of his training barefoot, so he was well prepared.

Fours years after he was also selected to run for his country in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic marathon, however had a set back in that forty days ahead of the he was operated on for an acute appendicitis and it was thought he would not be healed enough to compete. Bikala did compete and went on to win in a time that was faster than his win in the previous Olympics. He ran this marathon in running shoes. Bikala was the first runner to win 2 Olympic marathons.

In 1973, he died at the age of 42 due to the development of problems following a critical motor vehicle accident. In Ethiopia there is a athletic field in Addis Ababa named after him. Abebe Bikala’s legacy is also respected by the barefoot running community where he is considered as some sort of superhero for taking part in the Rome marathon without running shoes. Pundits of that do like to point out that for the Tokyo marathon he was using running footwear and was able to run that marathon faster. Additionally as part of the heritage which is Abebe Bikala, the minimal running shoe producer, Vibram FiveFingers have made and sold the Bikila label of their range which was called after him. However, in 2015, the family of Abebe Bikila reported they were taking court action against the manufacturer for using the 'Bikila' name without having permission. It was later settled out of the courtroom.


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