Like many distance events, Marathon often boils down to a race featuring the indefatigable runners from these two African neighbors.

By Alex Ashlock (NPR) |

The Kenyans vs. the Ethiopians.

Like many distance events at the Rio Games, and Olympics past, it often boils down to a race featuring the indefatigable runners from these two African neighbors.

And that’s a likely scenario in the women’s marathon this Sunday, and the men’s next Sunday, the final day of the Summer Olympics.

In every men’s and women’s marathon since 1996, at least one Kenyan or Ethiopian has made it to the medal stand, with one exception. And that exception proves the rule.

ALSO READ Ethiopia’s Etenesh Diro Advances to Final after Losing a Shoe on 3,000m Steeplechase Heat

At the 2004 Games in Athens, no Kenyan or Ethiopian man made the podium in the marathon, but the silver medalist was American Meb Keflezighi, who was born in Ethiopia in 1975 (His birthplace of Asmara is now the capital of Eritrea, which broke away from Ethiopia in 1993, after he and his family had left as refugees).

The Women’s Marathon

In the streets of Rio on Sunday morning, Kenyans Helah Kiprop and Jemima Sumgong lead their team. Kiprop won the Tokyo Marathon in February and Sumgong took the London Marathon.

The top-rated Ethiopian is Mare Dibaba, who won the World Championship Marathon in Beijing last summer.

The women’s marathon is a relatively new Olympic event. It wasn’t contested until 1984 when U.S. runner Joan Benoit ran to glory. She remains the only American woman to ever win a marathon.

In Rio, the U.S. women’s team features three experienced runners, Amy Cragg, Desi Linden and Shalane Flanagan.

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