Long-distance running might not have some of the flash and glitter as the 100 and 200 meters races, and its champions might not be as instantly recognizable as Usain Bolt or Michael Johnson. Still, running comes in many varieties, including some truly grueling challenges.

The Olympic 5000 meters, 10,000 meters, and the marathon – which covers 26 miles – are the most highly regarded races in the long-distance calendar. Athletes use national marathons and international athletic events to train and qualify for the Olympics, and, in today’s article, we’ll be looking at some of the greatest to run the distance in the world’s most prestigious races.

Haile Gebrselassie

No article about the most significant figures in long-distance running would be complete without talking about Haile Gebrselassie. The Ethiopian runner dominated the long-distance running scene in the late 90s and early 2000s, winning the Berlin Marathon four times consecutively, the Dubai marathon three times consecutively, four World Championship titles, and two Olympic golds in the 10,000 meters.

During his career, he set an astounding 27 world records and, in 2008, beat his own world record time at the Berlin Marathon. After his retirement, Gebrselassie moved into coffee farming and you can now by Ethiopian Haile Estate coffee from Starbucks.

Haile Gebrselassie & Paul Tergat’s epic duel over 10,000m at the Olympic Games in Sydney 2000

Eliud Kipchoge 

Described as the “greatest marathoner of modern times,” Kenyan born Eliud Kipchoge is the current world record holder for the marathon, setting a time of 2:01:39 at the Berlin Marathon in 2018. 

Kipchoge initially competed in the 5000 meters, winning an Olympic bronze medal and two silver medals. He switched to marathon running in 2012, winning his debut race in Hamburg. Since that time, he was won the Chicago Marathon five times, the London Marathon a record four times, and the Olympic Marathon in 2016.

Mo Farah

British born Mo Farah is only the second athlete in modern Olympic Games history, after Lasse Virén, to win both the 5000 meters and 10,000 meters titles at successive Olympic Games.

During the height of his career between 2010 and 2017, Farah racked up eighteen first place finishes in some of the world’s most challenging marathons, competitive athletic competitions, and the Olympics. 

Having come out of the retirement for the Tokyo Olympics, Farah has been tipped by Eliud Kipchoge to win the 10,000 meters in Japan next year. Farah will be facing some stiff competition in the form of Rhonex Kipruto, but if you’re the kind of person who likes close odds, you’d do well to take a moment from polishing your blackjack betting strategy to back the Mobot for gold in 2021.

Paula Radcliffe

Another British born long-distance runner, Paula Radcliffe overcame anemia and asthma as a child to become one of the best female runners in the world.

During her career, Radcliffe won the London Marathon three times, the New York Marathon three times, and the Chicago Marathon. Until 2019, Redcliffe was officially the fastest female marathon runner globally, with a 16-year record that ran from 2008 until it was beaten by another up-and-coming runner, Brigid Kosgei.

Dean Karnazes

While Dean Karnazes might not have set the same level of world records or Olympic golds as the other runners on this list, he has earned his place among them through his extraordinary feat of running 350 miles in 80 hours and 44 minutes without sleeping.

Karnazes has competed in some of the most grueling ultra-marathons in the world, including winning the Badwater Ultramarathon, which runs across America’s infamous Death Valley, and the Vermont Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run.

Karnazes’ most famous feat of endurance running was his successful attempt to run 50 marathons in 50 states on 50 consecutive days.

Kenenisa Bekele

Born in Ethiopia, Kenenisa Bekele currently holds the Olympic world record for the 10,000-metre race and has previously set world records in both the 5000-meter and 10000-meter races. 

A three-time Olympic gold medal winner, Bekele has also been incredibly successful outside of the Olympic games. His success in the world of cross-country running has made him the most successful runner in the history of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, having won an astounding 11 long and short course victories.

In 2009, Bekele also became the first man to win both the 5000 meters and 10,000 meters at the same time during the 2009 World Championships in Athletics.

Bekele: Berlin Marathon 2019.

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