Connected Worker

Abebe Bikilas feat in running the 1960 Rome Olympic marathon

Posted on March 3, 2018 by connectedworker

Throughout the history of running there are numerous icons whose triumphs enter the folklore. One that stands apart is the runner, Abebe Bikila from Ethiopia. He was picked at the last minute to run in the 1960 Rome Olympic marathon for Ethiopia, but didn't have any running shoes, so he competed without shoes and won the gold medal. The official sponsor, Adidas only had a couple of pairs of running shoes remaining and none fitted him, offering him little choice. Fortunately he had been performing a lot of his workouts barefoot, so he was prepared.

Fours years later he was also picked to compete for Ethiopia in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic marathon, although had a set back in that 40 days before the Olympics he was operated on for an acute appendicitis and it was assumed he would not be healed enough to participate. Bikala did take part and went on to get the gold in a time that was faster than his first place in Rome. He ran this marathon in running shoes. He was the 1st athlete to win 2 Olympic marathons.

In 1973, he passed away at the age of 42 because of the progression of problems after a significant motor vehicle accident. In his country there is a arena in Addis Ababa named after him. Abebe Bikala’s legacy is also honored by the barefoot running community where he is considered as some sort of champion for winning the Rome marathon barefoot. Naysayers of that do like to point out that for the Tokyo event he was using running footwear and was able to run that marathon faster. Also as part of the heritage which is Abebe Bikala, the minimal running shoe manufacturer, Vibram FiveFingers have made and marketed the Bikila model of their range which was called after him. However, in 2015, the family of Abebe Bikila reported they were taking court action against the company for using the 'Bikila' name without having approval. It had been later settled out of the courtroom.