Historical moments that shook the running world

by On Jan 11, 2020

The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.

Historical moments that shook the running world

As we approach the XXXII Olympics, widely known as Tokyo 2020, let’s recount some of the moments in history that shaped and influenced the world of running.

Get your notebook and pen ready kids because it’s time for a history lesson!

1. Sub 4-minute mile

Sir Roger Bannister was a British middle-distance runner. He broke the 4-minute barrier on 6 May 1954 at Iffley Road track in Oxford, England. He was 25 years old at that time and was studying to become a doctor.

Bannister’s accomplishment was reported all over the world and he was crowned as the greatest distance runner of his time. A year after breaking the 4-minute barrier, Bannister retired from professional running to focus on practicing medicine.

Bannister was knighted in 1975 and lived till the age of 88. His record was broken by Australian runner, John Landy who was Bannister’s close rival. 

2. First Paralympic Games

After WWII, a doctor by the name of Dr. Ludwig Guttmann founded the National Spinal Injuries Centre at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Great Britain in 1944. Guttmann introduced sport as a form of recreation and as an aid for remedial treatment and rehabilitation.

On 28 July 1948, the Stoke Mandeville Games were founded and the first competition for athletes with spinal cord injuries took place on the grounds of Stoke Mandeville. Subsequently, in 1960, the International Stoke Mandeville Games took place in Rome and this event went down in history as the “First Paralympic Games”.

Over the years, other disability groups were added to the games. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC), founded on 22 September 1989, is the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement. 

Historical moments that shook the running world
Athletics in Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games: Mr. Blanco representing Cuba enters first place in the track and field event.

3. Founding of Nike and adidas

Nike, formally known as Blue Ribbon Sports (1964-78), is headquartered in Oregon, USA. Its founder was Bill Bowerman, a track and field coach at the University of Oregon.

adidas was formed by Adolf Dassler and in 1924, he joined his brother, Rudolf to form the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory in Herzogenaurach, Germany.

Nike and adidas became household names in the world of running. They led the charge in the running shoe industry and never failed to deliver when it came to style, comfort and performance.

The innovation and creativity behind the design of their shoes has helped many elite runners such as Steve Prefontaine, Mo Farah and Eloise Wellings accomplish great athletic feats.

These feats shaped the sport of running and motivated athletes to push the boundaries and test their limits. 

4. Doping scandals

Doping scandals have occurred over the years in the sport of athletics. These scandals shook the world of running as they put the sport to shame. Many fans all over the world lost respect for their favourite runners and this resulted in a decline in the popularity of the sport.

Some athletes who were found to have consumed banned substances include Ben Johnson, Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery. These doping scandals caused ripple effects throughout the sporting world and a tightening of anti-doping regulations to curb the use of illicit substances.

5. Boston marathon bombing 

On April 15th, 2013, the day of the 117th annual Boston Marathon, two homemade pressure cooker bombs detonated 14 seconds and 210 yards (190 m) apart at 2:49 p.m., near the finish line of the race, killing 3 people and injuring several hundred others, including 16 who lost limbs.

This extremely sad event unified the international running community and brought about an increased focus and emphasis on safety and security for sporting events. 

Historical moments that shook the running world
118th Boston Marathon took place in Boston, Massachusetts, on Monday, April 21 (Patriots' Day) 2014. Children spectators offer rings to runners

6. Sub 2-hour marathon

This is no doubt the greatest moment in the history of running thus far. The stage was set in Vienna, Austria for Eliud Kipchoge to become the first person to run 26.2 miles in under 2 hours.

Kipchoge ran at a blistering pace of 4:35 per mile, clocking in an official time of 1:59:40. Kipchoge’s performance, however, was not recognized as an official world record because it was not done under competition conditions.

Despite this, Eliud Kipchoge showed to the world that nothing is impossible and with hard work, dedication and patience, you can achieve what you set out to accomplish.

This record also serves as inspiration for other elite runners to break the 2 hour barrier for the marathon distance.

What's your memorable running moment?

Some of the moments that shaped and influenced the world of running gave us lots of joy while others brought us immense sadness and disappointment.

If you have personally experienced a moment that had an impact on your career as a runner, feel free to share it in the comments below.

Ryan is a sports enthusiast who believes in the power of sports to achieve personal growth. He is an avid athlete and loves to explore the world. He is the Founder of Thinking Movement, a Medium publication focussed on providing insights and solutions to issues pertaining to sustainability, social justice, inclusion, mental health and self-help.

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