All through the history of running there are many figures whose successes go into the folklore. One who is unique is the runner, Abebe Bikila coming from Ethiopia. He was picked at the eleventh hour to run in the 1960 Rome Olympic marathon for his country, but had no running footwear, so he ran without shoes and earned 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 doing a great deal of his training without footwear, so he was prepared.

Fours years after he was also picked to run for Ethiopia in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic marathon, although had a set back in that forty days ahead of the race he was operated on for an serious appendicitis and it was considered he would not be healed enough to be competitive. Bikala did compete and went on to win in a time that was faster than his first place in Rome. Bikala ran this marathon in running footwear. Abebe was the first athlete to win 2 Olympic marathons.

In 1973, he past away at the age of 42 because of the progression of complications following a critical motor vehicle accident. In his country there is a athletic field in Addis Ababa named after him. Abebe Bikala’s legacy is also honoured by the barefoot running community where he is considered as some type of superhero for taking part in the Rome marathon without running shoes. Pundits of that do love to point out that for the Tokyo event he was wearing running footwear and was able to compete in that marathon faster. Also as part of the heritage that is Abebe Bikala, the minimalist running shoe maker, Vibram FiveFingers have produced and marketed the Bikila model of their range that was called after him. However, in 2015, the family of Abebe Bikila announced they were taking legal action against the manufacturer for registering the 'Bikila' name without having authorization. It was later resolved out of the courtroom.