Abebe Bikila was a marathon runner from Ethiopia, winning double Olympic gold medals: Rome in 1960 and Tokyo in 1964. He passed away in 1973 at the age of 41 from complications following a motor vehicle accident. There is a stadium in Addis Ababa named after him. Google honored him with one of their doodles on what would have been his 81st birthday on 7 August 2013.
1960 Olympic Marathon in Rome:
He was a last minute replacement in the Ethiopian team for the Olympics. He had no shoes to run in and Adidas, the official sponsor only had a few pairs left that did not fit him, so he ran the marathon barefoot (he had been training barefoot). He won the race in a time of 2hr 15min. After the race, responding to a question as to why he ran barefoot, Bikila answered: “I wanted the whole world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism.“
1964 Olympic Marathon in Tokyo:
Forty days before the marathon he was operated on for an acute appendicitis and at one stage it was thought that he would not be able to compete. He went on to win this marathon in a world record time of 2hr 12min, being the first athlete to win two Olympic marathons. Bikila was wearing Puma shoes in the race (which he also ran in to finish 5th in the 1963 Boston Marathon).
In the video he can be seen with a light to moderate heel strike with a few midfoot strikes as well. Despite that, he is not overstriding and could break a world record. Bikila is often held up by the barefoot running community as a hero for running the marathon barefoot (along with other elite runners). Critics of that like to point out that he could run faster and break a world record when using running shoes.
As part of his legacy, the minimalist running shoe manufacturer, Vibram FiveFingers have the Bikila model of their range named after him. Early in 2015, the family of Abebe Bikila announced they were taking legal action against Vibram for registering the ‘Bikila’ name without permission.
Buy the DVD:
Biography: ‘The Barefoot Runner’
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail; 320 pages; 2007; Author: Paul Rambali
Buy the book:
Abebe Bikila at eBay:
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|Primary author of this page: Craig Payne
About: University lecturer, runner, cynic, researcher, blogger, skeptic, woo basher, clinician, forum admin, rabble-rouser, dad. Follow Craig on Twitter and Google+