The Great Distance Runners

This site is dedicated to the greatest distance runners in the world from past and present

Said Aouita and Mark Nenow in a 10000m race in 1986 at the Bislett Games in Oslo

Surely the "greatness" of a runner depends for a lot from your own point of view about the subject. There are so many aspects which should be considered:
titles won - medals won - win-loss record - records set - longevity - versatility - number of competitions - personal bests - all-time rankings - class of competitors ...

Some only weight the Olympic medals the athlete has won, others only the records the athlete has set. I don't like something like this; I think we should look ON THE WHOLE CAREER of the athlete.

The main focus on this site are the track distance runners, the runners which had great success on the track over the distances from 800m to 10000m. Some of these runners which belong to the list of the greatest without any question: Paavo Nurmi, Emil Zátopek, Peter Snell, Kipchoge Keino, Sebastian Coe, Saïd Aouita, Noureddine Morceli, Haile Gebrselassie, Hicham El Guerrouj, Kenenisa Bekele, and some more...

I havn't done many stats for women, mainly because I'm also very much interested in the historical part of the sport. On the womens side there isn't a similar improvement like on the mens side for some reasons which could be: greater importance of illegal drugs than on the mens side, not such a big importance on female sports in big parts of the world like for the men, only very late "acceptance" for many distances for the women...

Brendan Foster leads Frank Shorter at the traditional Cinque Mulini XC

On this site you will find very extensive career records for many of the greatest distance runners, and also some other - unique - statistics. All of these stats are the result of many, many hours of work, which I have done over the past years. The formatting of these stats is far from perfect (it's much better with Mozilla than with IE on my computer...) at the moment - sorry for that. But I will try to better, so that it will become a pleasure to read them.


all-time top-10

My personal list of the greatest distance runners of all-time is as following: The next group could include (no ranking) some of these runners:
  1. Haile Gebrselassie
  2. Paavo Nurmi
  3. Kenenisa Bekele
  4. Emil Zátopek
  5. Hicham El Guerrouj
  6. Saïd Aouita
  7. Sebastian Coe
  8. Peter Snell
  9. Kipchoge Keino
  10. Paul Tergat
  • Wilson Kipketer
  • Noureddine Morceli
  • Moses Kiptanui
  • Ville Ritola
  • Vladimir Kuts
  • Steve Ovett
  • Steve Cram
  • Gunder Hägg
  • Lasse Viren
  • Ron Clarke
  • Jim Ryun
  • Henry Rono
  • Herb Elliott
  • Michel Jazy
  • Rudolf Harbig
  • Sydney Wooderson
  • Emiel Puttemans
  • Daniel Komen
  • Saif Shaheen
  • Mohamed Gammoudi
  • Taisto Mäki
  • David Rudisha
Aouita and Coe are more equal on position 6. Obviously such a list is highly debatable; also it is not at least clear, what "best" or "greatest" means at all. But one place in this list is not anymore a thing of the personal point of view - the first one. Haile Gebrselassie now is for such a long time at the top of his sport, that he must be the Nr. 1 in any serious ranking. For sure, Kenenisa Bekele - who is several years younger than Haile - also has had a wonderful career so far. But since Haile still is setting records, Kenenisa has a lot to do, to catch his Ethiopian predessesor.

statistic of the greatest all-around track distance runners

The following statistics lists over 100 of the greatest all-around runners in history with all of there personal bests from 800m to 10000m including the Steeple.

The aim was to make a list of "versatile" runners, which had great success in at least two Olympic events or good results in at least three events. But there isn't something like an mathematical formula behind which runners are included and which not. But obviously a great runner like Wilson Kipketer can not be included, because he never had 1500m-results of some significance. But the portuguese Rui Silva - for example - is included, because of international class results from 800m to 3000m. Also hardly someone will call Silva the "better" runner.

best overall-runners

In addition to the personal bests of the athletes, you will find in brackets behind the personal best from each runner in all the events the BEST POSITION on the all-time list, which the athlete reached during his career in that event. This obviously must not be at the moment, when the athlete has set his best time. Numbers like 1:43,86 (13) in the 800m column thus means, that the athlete has a personal best of 1:43,86 and at one point of his career he was the 13th fastest of all-time in the event. It was not possible to search and find all of these positions, especially for runners from the first half of the 20th century. But still, this definitely is a statistics, which never was published - or done - before in this way. In some cases you will find a number like 4,54 or so in brackets, which means that the athlete has come within 4,54% close to the world record of the event.

Filbert Bayi from Tansania - at the 1974 Commonwealt Games in Christchurch he has set a new World Record
over 1500m after leading from gun to tape
Michel Jazy has set World Records over all distances in between 1500m and 5000m - in which he was the 2nd fastest all-time


progressive all-time lists

In the following links you will find progressive all-time lists for the different events. These lists should include all the results which qualified an athlete for an all-time top-10 performers position - at any date in running-history. It is very difficult to find all the necessary stats, so these lists definitely are not complete - especially for the early years. I tried to include any times known, also indoor times and intermediate times in longer events, what makes it much more difficult to get all necessary results. As always, I would be very happy for any additions.

the World Record holder over
1000m, Noah Ngeny, 1999 in Munich
in 1978, Henry Rono has set World Records over
3000m, 5000m, 10000m and the Steeple - unique

progressive all-time list 800m

progressive all-time list 1000m

progressive all-time list 1500m

progressive all-time list 1 Mile

progressive all-time list 2000m

progressive all-time list 3000m

progressive all-time list 2 Miles

progressive all-time list 5000m

progressive all-time list 10000m

progressive all-time list 3000m Steeple


career records

Here you will find very extensive career records of some of the greatest distance runners in history. I have done such lists for much more athletes, well over 100 I think. From time to time I will upload another runner. Any addition to these lists is very appreciated!

My goal is to creata such lists - as complete as possible - for every runner who has achieved a World Record or has won an Olympic Title during his career. But it is very difficult to find enough data for some runners from before around 1950. Help is needed!

Paavo Nurmi

Rudolf Harbig

Marcel Hansenne

Gunder Hägg

Josy Barthel

Roger Bannister

Sandor Iharos

Michel Jazy

Benjamin Jipcho

Amos Biwott

Emiel Puttemans

Lasse Viren

Marcello Fiasconaro

Filbert Bayi

Samson Kimobwa

Fernando Mamede

John Walker

Henry Rono

David Moorcroft

Steve Ovett

Sebastian Coe

Steve Cram

Joaquim Cruz

Paul Ereng

Arturo Barrios

Richard Chelimo

Khalid Skah

Moses Kiptanui

Wilson_Kipketer

Paul Tergat

Noah Ngeny

Kenenisa Bekele

The following runners are also available: Arne Andersson, Said Aouita, Roger Bannister, Bernard Barmasai, Dieter Baumann, Luigi Beccali, David Bedford, Wilson Boit Kipketer, Pyotr Bolotnikov, Juri Borzakovsky, Jean Bouin, Brahim Boulami, Brahim Boutaib, Audun Boysen, Fermin Cacho, Chris Chataway, Richard Chelimo, Jerzy Chromik, Ron Clarke, Tom Courtney, Alberto Cova, Glen Cunningham, Peter Elliott, Mohamed Farah, Marcello Fiasconaro, Brendan Foster, Mohamed Gammoudi, Anders Gärderud, Haile Gebrselassie, Murray Halberg, Rudolf Harbig, Siegfried Herrmann, Derek Ibbotson, Volmari Iso-Hollo, Alberto Juantorena, Kipchoge Keino, Franz-Josef Kemper, Samson Kimobwa, Wilson Kipketer, Asbel Kiprop, Peter Koech, Hannes Kolehmainen, Vladimir Kuts, John Landy, Jules Ladoumegue, Werner Lueg, Taoufik Makhloufi, Sydney Maree, Jürgen May, Noureddine Morceli, Noah Ngeny, Gunnar Nielsen, Venuste Niyongabo, Harald Norpoth, Kerry O'Brien, Yobes Ondieki, Otto Peltzer, Gordon Pirie, Gaston Reiff, Ville Ritola, Gaston Roelants, Peter Rono, Istvan Rozsavölgyi, Jim Ryun, Ilmari Salminen, Bob Schul, Nils Schumann, William Sigei, Khalid Skah, Peter Snell, Norman Taber, Naftali Temu, Paul Tergat, Siegfried Valentin, Pekka Vasala, Lasse Viren, Dan Waern, Thomas Wessinghage, Rick Wohlhuter, Sydney Wooderson, John Woodruff, Dave Wottle, John Zander, Emil Zatopek. If someone is interested in extensive career records please contact me.

national record progressions

This section has links to national record progressions for some of the leading nations in the history of middle and long distance running. These lists are not official or something like that, but as accurate as I could make them. Included are any marks which I could find, also indoor times and intermediate times. The german file includes FRG, GDR and GER records.

national record progressions Morocco

national record progressions Germany

national record progressions USA

national record progressions Kenya

national record progressions Australia

national record progressions Ethiopia

national record progressions Algeria

national record progressions France

national record progressions Hungary

national record progressions Belgium

national record progressions Finland

national record progressions Great Britain


area record progressions

Links to record progressions of continental areas:

area record progressions Africa

area record progressions Europe

area record progressions Asia

area record progressions North America

area record progressions Oceania

area record progressions South America


progression over the years

Graphical illustrations of the yearly leaders and the 10th fastest over the years in the main events.

800m-progression *          1500m-progression          3000m-progression          5000m-progression          10000m-progression          3000mSt-progression *


the greatest of them all: Haile Gebrselassie, seeing here in his junior days

videos and statistics: can someone help?

For many years I'm collecting videotapes of great distance races. I'm especially looking for old stuff from the early 1980s and the 1970s. If anyone has something from this period, it would be great if we could get in contact. Very high on my "wish list" are the World Records from Emiel Puttemans (1972 - 1973), Anders Gärderud (1972 -1976), Ben Jipcho (1973) and Henry Rono (1978). I'm also missing the following Olympic Races in full: Mexico '68: 5000m, 10000m, 3000mSt; Munich '72: 3000mSt, 1500mW; Montreal '76: 3000mSt;
Another thing I'm looking for are career records for some record breakers from the first half of the 20th century. If anyone has some stats which could be of interest for me, I would be happy to get some copies.

short profiles

The following link leads you to short profiles of many all-time greats. I will add more regularly.

short profiles

the great Emil Zatopek, who totally dominated the 10000m for several years

world record photos

Here you will find many photos from World Record races (and from World Best performances which were not officially recognised); it would be great to get one photo from every record.

world record photos

Some of these photos are from the great site www.elatleta.com which has an enormous amount of great pictures in the forum.

photos from championship races

800m                      1500m                      3000m *                      5000m                      10000m                      3000mSt *                  


distance running photos

Non world record photos from the history of distance running is what is in this section.

historical distance running photos


detailed world record informations

I'm starting to put in some detailed informations for some World Record races as race description, full result, intermediate times...

detailed world record informations

I'm just planning this, but have just to start - the first race discription will follow soon
Because of some request, here are links to articles which were published in the German magazine "Leichtathletik" some years ago. They are in german, but still someone may be interested in them.

Said Aouita                   John Walker                   Paavo Nurmi                   Lasse Viren                   Noureddine Morceli

Steve Prefontaine leading Harald Norpoth in a dual meet FRG v. USA in 1970 in Stuttgart

useful links

Some links to athletics related sites which I regularly use:

letsrun

gbrathletics

iaaf

Leichtathletik-Statistik

Championship Results

alltime-athletics

arrs

Track & Field News

Summer Games

topsinathletics

athlestats

Hicham El Guerrouj in 1997, who now holds for a full decade the World Records over 1500m, 1 Mile and 2000m

abbreviations

Abbreviations for all of my statistics: WR : World Record - AR: Area (Continental) Record - NR: National Record - WIR : World Indoor Record (etc.) - WJR : World Junior Record (etc.) - OG : Olympic Games - OR : Olympic Record - OS : Olympic Stadium - GP : Grand Prix - y : achieved in Mile races - v. : versus - h : heat - qf : quarter final - sf : semi final - WC : White City - CP : Crystal Palace - MSG : Madison Square Garden - OF : official - HT : hand time - EL : electronic time - dnf : did not finish - (q.) : did qualify for next round - (n.) : did not qualify for next round

A number in red behind an performance always indicates the position on the all-time performers list the athlete reached with this performance. An +... gave the gap to the second placed athlete for a winning performance; an -... the gap to the winner, in an non-winning performance. To smaller venues, usually also the country is given; in some cases also the stadium is indicated.



Please send any comments, additions or corrections to:
Andreas Janßen