Runners' World's December issue features "The Best of Running." It's a fun list, and I'm in agreement with almost everything listed there. Badwater as the hardest race? You bet - the more I read about that race, the less I ever want to experience it. Bananas as the ideal runner's food? Sure - portable, tasty, cheap, full of potassium. Pre as the coolest runner of all time? Shoot, that hardly even seems like an opinion; nobody's cooler than Pre.
But then, on page 70, they claim that Haile Gebrselassie is the greatest male distance runner of all time. Runners up (no pun intended)include Kenenisa Bekele, Frank Shorter, Roger Banister (debatable whether a miler counts as a distance runner, but no matter), and Jim Ryun.
Okay, yes, Haile is a great runner, with a pile of wins to his name. But he is not the greatest male distance runner of all time. That honor clearly belongs to Emil Zatopek.
In the 1952 Olympics, Zatopek won THREE gold medals: in the 5K, 10K, and his first ever marathon, which he entered at the spur of the moment. That is hard-core awesome. Even more awesome, he was generous with his fellow runners, offering training advice to men attempting to break a four-minute mile.
Emil Zatopek is the greatest male distance runner of all time.