10 Best African Male Runners of All Time

Africa is a staple for runners from all over the world. It is not for nothing that more and more athletes come to Africa to find training conditions that have offered a great number of African athletes to climb to the top of athletics world. East Africa and North Africa have always impressed the world of athletics mainly in the middle distance and long distance races.

Here is a list of the top ten African male runners of all time, athletes who have made Africa proud of its talents.


Kipchoge Keino (Kenya)

Kipchoge Keino, African Runner

Born in the Nadi Region, 1940,  Kipchoge Keino was the first major Kenyan athlete to have reached the world-class level, making him the forerunner of Kenyan fame in running. His two Olympic titles, his world records, and his personality made Kip Keino a legendary African athlete. He won two Olympic Gold Medals in the 1,500-metre event in Mexico (1968) and in the 3,000-metre event in Munich (1972). He retired in 1975.

In 1968 in Mexico City, the story of Kip Keino was marked in a funny way. He was registered on the 10,000-metre, the 5,000-metre, and the 1,500-metre. Suffering from gallstones, doctors forbade him to run! He decided not to run the 1,500-metre final despite his qualification, especially since he was not cured. One hour before the event, he changed his mind and jumped out of bed to go to the stadium. On his way to the stadium, the bus was stuck in traffic. Seeing that he was going to be late, he decided running the remaining 2 miles to the stadium was his best bet. Kip Keino participated in the races and won it with more than 20 metres ahead of Jim Ryun, who had not been beaten in the 1,500-metre race for three years!

Kipchoge Keino African Runner

Keino later worked in Kenya helping orphans, and then helped create primary and secondary schools. He now occupies the position of President of the Kenyan National Olympic Committee, where he tries to fight against the departure of athletes to other countries for money.

Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia)

Haile Gebrselassie African Runner

Haile Gebrselassie is one of the greatest runners in the world. His career, marked by many successes, documents innumerable victories. Gebreselassie was born in Africa, more precisely in Ethiopia, like most of the great runners of his generation. He started running at an early age to go to school, 20 kilometers away from home. It was at the age of 16 that Gebrselassie, without any preparation, finished his very first marathon in 2h:42.

In 1992, races won include the 10,000-metre and 5,000-metre races at the World Junior Championship. It was from that moment that Gebrselassie began to make himself known to the public. He then won the 10,000-meter race at the World Championship the following year and, in 1994, he broke the world record at Hengelo.

The records of Haile Gebrselassie continued to grow in the following years. He won another world championship victory in 1996 in Zurich, while he was preparing for the Atlanta Olympics. He would later become a world hero for his fabulous victory at the Atlanta Olympic Games. In 1997, Gebrselassie achieved a new world record in Stuttgart, as well as others in Stockholm and Oslo.

Haile Gebrselassie African Runner

It is with a second gold medal that Gebrselassie began the new millennium. He won the second gold medal during the Sydney Olympics before breaking the world records of prestigious marathons in 2007 (Berlin Marathon) and 2008 (Dubai Marathon).

Said Aouita (Morocco)

Said Aouita African Runner

Saïd Aouita, “The man with the five records,” an undisputed master in the eighties of the middle-distance from 800 metres to 5,000 metres.  Aouita was first selected for the World Championship in Athletics in Helsinki. He placed third behind the star of the time, Steve Cram. A year later, Los Angeles was home to the Olympics. While he was expected to run the 1,500 metres, he surprised everyone by lining up on the 5,000-metre, a senseless challenge as the two distances require completely different types of preparation. Not only did Aouita win, but he broke British runner, Dave Moorcroft’s, record of being the world record-holder of 5,000-metre distance.

Said Aouita African Runner

The year of 1985 was the year of Aouita’s glory as he was the star of the Olympic Games when he broke two world records in the 1,500 metres, as well as the 5,000 metres.  In that year, he received the most prestigious award of world athletics, the Jesse Owens Award. Two years later in 1987, at the end of a historic race in Rome, Aouita beat his own 5,000-metre record by ending the race in 12m:58:39.

Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco)

Hicham-El-Guerrouj African Runner

The 1995 world champion in Gothenburg, Moroccan athlete, Hicham El Guerrouj, suffered a cruel disillusionment at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games when he fell in the 1,500 metres final. In 1997 in Athens, he was the world champion in the same distance. From then on, he asserted himself as the king of the middle distance. On July 14, 1998, El Guerrouj improved the world record of 1,500 metres to 3m:26s. On July 7, 1999, in Rome, he beat the world record for the mile (3m:43:13), and then in August, he retained his world title over the 1,500 metres. In September of the same year, he finished his season with a new world record in Berlin, this time over 2,000 metres (4m:44:79).

Hicham El Guerrouj African Runner

In 2001, El Guerrouj was, once again, world champion in the 1,500 metres (3m:30:68). In 2003, in Saint Denis, Paris, the Moroccan athlete retained (once again) his world title of the 1,500 metres (3m:31:77). However, his biggest achievement was in the Olympic Games of Athens in 2004, when he managed a formidable double in the 1,500 and 5,000 metres, a performance that only Finland’s, Paavo Nurmi (1924), had managed to achieve.

Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia)

Kenenisa Bekele African Runner

Kenenisa Bekele, born in 1982, is an Ethiopian prodigy of the long distance runs. In 2004, he was named the worthy successor of the Ethiopian master, Haile Gebrselassie.

Kenenisa Bekele African Runner

The record of Kenenisa Bekele is impressive. He is the sixth athlete in history to achieve the double of the 5,000 and 10,000 metres when he won the gold medal in the 10,000-metre race at the Beijing Olympics, ahead of his compatriot, Sileshi Sihine, and Kenyan runner, Micah Kogo. It  was a new record of the Olympic Games  with a time of 27m:01:17. In the same competition, Bekele achieved his second consecutive Olympic title in the 5000-metre distance.

Paul Tergat (Kenya)

Paul Tergat African Runner

Paul Tergat is a Kenyan distance runner, and marathon world record-holder from 2003 to 2007 (2h:04:55). Against Gebrselassie, Tergat only managed once to take the top spot, breaking the 10,000-metre world record on August 22, 1997, in Brussels. His record is eloquent, with Tergat winning two silver medals at the Olympic Games (Atlanta and Sydney), and two second world places, still behind his Ethiopian rival.

Paul Tergat African Runner

In cross-country discipline, Paul Tergat has five consecutive individual titles from 1995 to 1999, and eight in teams before the domination of the young Ethiopian, Kenenisa Bekele. In 2005, not surprisingly, Tergat won the prestigious New York Marathon with a time of 2h:09:30.

Henry Rono (Kenya)

Henry Rono African Runner

Born in 1952, Henry Rono was a Kenyan athlete who specialized in the middle distance. In 1978, he won four international gold medals, two at the Edmonton Commonwealth Games in the 3,000-metre steeplechase, and the 5,000 metres, and two at the Pan-African Games in Algiers (3,000-metre steeplechase and the 10,000 metres).

Henry Rono African Runner

Rono achieved a huge achievement by setting four world records over four different distances in 81 days. It was first the record of 5,000 metres in 13m:08:04 on April 8, 1978, in Berkeley. Then, on May 13, 1978, in Seattle, it was the record of the 3,000-metre steeple in 8m:05:4. On June 11th in Vienna, it was the 10,000 metres where he lowered his record by almost 8 seconds to 27m:22:5. Finally, on the 27th of the same month, he set his fourth record in the 3,000 metres in 7m:32:1 at the Bislett Games in Oslo. In 1981, he lowered his own record in the 5,000 metres, achieving 13m:06:20 in Knarvik.

Noureddine Morceli (Algeria)

Noureddine Morceli African Runner

Noureddine Morceli was born in 1970 in Ténès, Algeria. He was 7 years old when he saw his eldest brother, Abderahmane, the 1,500-metre Algerian champion on television, finishing 4th in the World Cup in Montreal in 1977. He then decided to follow in his brother’s footsteps. His first success goes back to the 1988 World Junior Championship, where he won a silver medal in the 1,500 metres. He went on to the World Cup Circuit in 1990, where he achieved the best world performance of the season with a time of 3h:37:87, always in the 1,500-metre distance. In 1991, he beat the 1,500-metre indoor world record in Seville, and then won the gold medal at the 1991 World Championships in Athletics in Tokyo.

Noureddine Morceli African Runner

In the spring of 1992, Morcelli beat the world record in the 1,000-metre distance with a time of 2h:15:26. One year later, in 1993, he won the 1,500-metre distance at the world championships and broke the world record. In 1995, with a very good “hare,” he beat the world record in the 1500 metres (3h:27:37) at Nikaïa. At the Olympic Games in Atlanta, he won the gold medal after the famous fall of his rival, Hicham El Guerrouj.

Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya)

Geoffrey Mutai African Runner

Geoffrey Kiprono Mutai, another Kenyan athlete specializing in cross-country running. In 2011, at the 115th Boston Marathon, Mutai set the best all-time marathon performance in 2h:03:02, but this performance was not finally approved by the IAAF. On November 6, 2011, he won the New York Marathon in 2h:05:05 by breaking the record of the event ahead of his compatriot, Emmanuel Mutai, and Ethiopian runner, Tsegay Kebede.

Geoffrey Mutai African Runner

In 2012, Mutai won the Berlin Marathon in 2:04:15 (personal record), but failed at his attempt to break the world record. One year later on November 3, 2013, he won the New York Marathon for the second time in front of Tsegaye Kebede and Lusapho April.

Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich (Kenya)

Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich African Runner

Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich is a Kenyan athlete who specializes in cross-country running. He won the Frankfurt Marathon in 2011, achieving the second best world performance of all time in 2h:03:41. In April 2012, Kiprotich won the London Marathon in 2h:04:44, achieving the second best performance of the event. During the Olympic Games of London 2012, he was only able to win the bronze.

Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich African Runner

In 2013, Kiprotich won the Berlin Marathon and beat the world record in 2h:03:23. One year later in November 2014, he won the New York Marathon in 2h:10:59.

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