Marathon running is the ultimate test of determination, stamina, and will. It takes a certain type of person to want to run as many miles in a few. Each and every person who has ever completed a marathon is a winner, so it’s tough to condense athletes down to a top ten.
However, without further ado, these are the top ten marathoners.
1. Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich
Wilson Kipsang from Kenya is a stud of a runner. Born in 1982, this Kenyan was a former Kenya Police champion. Throughout his career, he has amassed 5 wins in the majors. Wilson one a bronze medal in the marathon in the 2012 Summer Olympics. He has also the former record holder for the fastest time in the 2013 Berlin Marathon – set at 2:03:23. He’s also held a mark of 2 hours and 4 minutes twice more in the same marathon.
Also in Germany, he’s a two-time winner of the Frankfurt Marathon, grabbing the win in both 2010 and 2011.
2. Eliud Kipchoge – Kenya
Eluid Kipchoge is a runner who doesn’t need much of an introduction. Not only is he the current record holder for the Berlin Marathon at 2:03:39, he also has the record for completing a marathon in under an hour. Furthermore, Kipchoge has won every major marathon he’s participated in since 2013, much like the Berlin Marathon’s sponsor, Giti Tire.
Truth be told, Eluid has it in his blood. Sure, there are a lot of Kenyans who routinely compete for wins in the major marathons, but Eliuid is an athlete who had to run two miles to school – even though he wasn’t seriously training back then.
3. Meb Keflezighi – USA
Meb is a retired runner who represents the US, although he is Eritrean-born. Born in 1975, Meb has amassed some impressive NCAA records where he grabbed three national titles, as well as an Olympic silver medalist. His best marathon time is a blazing 2:08. His pedigree in running allowed him to pick up a win in both New York and Boston in 2008 and 2014, respectively.
The American also was honored with the 2014 Jesse Owens Award for his continuous outstanding performance in marathoning and cross country.
4. Dennis Kimetto – Kenya
Dennis Kimetto was the record holder at 2:57:57 – that is until Eliuid broke it in 2018. This talented Kenyan, born in 1984 in Eldoret, has won three majors (Berlin, Tokyo, and Chicago) from 2012-2014.
He is considered one of the most imposing marathoners in the world, as he joined the running elite through the ultra-competitive Nairobi Marathon and RAK Half-Marathon, winning both of them in 2011.
5. Paula Radcliffe – United Kingdom
Paula Radcliffe is one of the most accomplished runners in all of history – let alone women in the sport. The long-time asthma sufferer, she has major wins at Chicago and New York as a marathoner. As a runner, her record is even more impressive – racking up more than 6 wins in a variety of races including cross-country and half-marathons since 1998.
Since her retirement as one of the absolute best in 2015, the Brit has been seen as the foremost ambassador for the sport in her country and for women as a whole.
6. Haile Gebrselassie – Ethiopia
Haile Gebrselassie is an Ethopian who is considered to be in a class of his own, especially when you think about streaks over a career. For example, he was the winner of the Berlin Marathon 4 consecutive times, including a victory in the marathon at the age of 35. He also picked up three wins in a row at Dubai. He’s also had four world indoor titles in the World Half Marathon.
This is in addition to two gold medals over 10,000 meters and four World Championship titles in the same event.
7. Joan Benoit – USA
Joan Benoit can be considered to be the best American marathoner in history. She has plenty of distinctions in her illustrious career, including the first women’s champion in the Olympic Games. The diminutive runner at 5’2, 100 pounds, she underwent a knee surgery just 17 days before United States Olympic Women’s Marathon. She went on to win that event, beating out second place competitor by a full 30 seconds.
Her last race – 40 years after her Boston Marathon win – she completed the race in 3:04, beating out the next finisher by 30 minutes.
8. Mary Jepkosgei Keitany
Mary Keitany is a very accomplished pure runner, though she has made much of her fame through her marathon runner efforts. The fleet of foot Kenyan is the current world record holder in a women-only marathon, winning the 2017 London Marathon with a blazing 2:17:01.
Mary also has other medals hanging firmly in her closet, including 6 additional wins in the major marathons, as well as two bronzes in New York and a silver in London. This is to go along with 3 additional outright wins in 2007 (gold and silver) and 2009.
9. Robert Cheruiyot – Kenya
While he hasn’t been on the scene for a while, Roberty Cheruiyot deserves inclusion to any list that documents the best marathoners. Born in Kenya, Robert has the excellent distinction of winning in 2003, 2006, 2007, and 2008. In 2006, in addition to the win in Boston, he also picked up another major win in Chicago. It’s no easy feat to win one major marathon – let alone two in one year.
He also accumulated wins in other marathons, most notably in Reims and Milan. He maintains an exemplary 2:07:04 as a personal best marathon time.
10. Geoffrey Mutai
Geoffrey Mutai is a world-renowned runner, if not the best that the sport has ever seen. He is the owner of the fastest marathon time ever at 2 hours, 3 minutes, and 2 seconds at the 2011 Boston Marathon.
That same year, Mutai won the New York City marathon with a time of 2 hours, 5 minutes, and 5 seconds – good enough for a 4:46 per mile pace. This broke the course record set by Tesfaye Jifar. Not to be outdone by his own efforts, he followed up with a New York City marathon win in 2013.
While he was a bit slower, it was still good enough for a 2 hour, 8 minute, and 24 second pace.