Ethiopian Bikila Win’s Marathon Running Barefoot

After I wrote a post about the risk and benefit of running with worn out trainers, a reader alerted me to the inspiring story of Abebe Bikila who ran bare footed at 1960 Summer Olympics Marathon. The incredible thing about this barefooted Ethiopian runner was he also won the gold.

According to Bikila’s bio on wikipedia, Adidas, the shoe sponsor at the 1960 Summer Olympics, had few shoes left when Bikila went to try out shoes and he ended up with a pair that didn’t fit comfortably, so he couldn’t use them. A couple of hours before the race the decision was taken by Abebe to run barefoot, the way he’d trained for the race.

At the start of the race the Australian Ron Clarke made a comment to Bikila about running barefoot. I didn’t find what Clarke actually said but I guese he said something like “Mate, are you nuts!”

Bikila won in a then record time of 2:15:16.2, becoming the first African to win an Olympic gold medal. He finished 26 seconds ahead of Rhadi Ben Abdesselam of Morocco.

After the race, when Bikila was asked why he had run barefoot, he replied, “I wanted the world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism.”

Abebe Bikila’s Soles After the Olympic Marathon (1960) picture courtesy of

Have an Inspiring Week

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