Throughout the history of running there are plenty of figures whose achievements enter the folklore. One that is unique is the runner, Abebe Bikala out of Ethiopia. He was picked at the eleventh hour to compete in the 1960 Rome Olympic marathon for his country, but had no running shoes, so he ran without running shoes and won the gold medal. The official sponsor, Adidas simply had a few pairs of running shoes available and none of them fitted him, offering him little choice. Fortunately he had been carrying out a lot of his training without footwear, so he was well prepared.
Fours years later he was also picked to compete for his country in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic marathon, although had a problem in that forty days before the race he was operated on for an acute appendicitis and it was considered he would not be healed enough to compete. Abebe did take part and went on to get the gold in a time which was quicker than his winning time in the previous Olympics. Abebe ran this marathon in running footwear. He was the first runner to win 2 Olympic marathons.
In 1973, he past away at the age of 42 because of the development of complications following a significant car accident. In his country there is a stadium in Addis Ababa named after him. Abebe Bikala’s legacy is also honored by the barefoot running community where he is considered as some type of champion for taking part in the Rome marathon barefoot. Naysayers of that do like to point out that for the Tokyo marathon he was using running footwear and was able to compete in that marathon faster. Also as part of the heritage which is Abebe Bikila, the minimalist running footwear manufacturer, Vibram FiveFingers have produced and marketed the Bikila version their range which was named after him. However, in 2015, the family of Abebe Bikila reported they were taking legal action against the company for using the 'Bikila' name without having permission. It had been later settled out of court.