Distance running started to become popular in the U.S. in the 1970s – apparently inspired largely by Frank Shorter’s gold medal marathon run at the 1972 Munich Olympics – and there are no signs that interest is abating. (Here are the locations of the last 31 Summer Olympics.)
The non-profit running-advocate organization Running USA reported that there were 425,000 marathon runners in the United States in 2008, an increase of 20% from the beginning of the decade, and the number has only grown since then. Celebrities have taken up the ultimate distance-running challenge, and that has boosted interest in running. (These are the best American cities for runners.)
Virtually every major city holds an annual marathon, as do smaller towns and rural areas – there are more than 1,000 of these 26.2-mile races in the U.S. each year – and they draw not just serious runners from the everyday population but also celebrities of various kinds.
To determine a list of celebrities who have run marathons in America, 24/7 Tempo consulted media sources for news on famous people who have run marathons in the past. We focused on those figures who are in movies, television, radio, stage, music, and major league sports to compile our list.
A major impetus for celebrities to run in a marathon is to support a favored charity. Actor Ryan Reynolds has run to benefit research on Parkinson’s disease because his father suffered from that condition. Actor Edward Norton and singer Alanis Morissette participated in the New York City Marathon to raise money for the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, which protects the Maasai tribe’s home and customs in East Africa. Actor Ashton Kutcher took part in the 2022 New York City Marathon to help THORN, an international anti-human trafficking organization that defends children against sexual exploitation.
Past and current athletes run to support charities, too, but running also satisfies their competitive urges. These athletes include former NFL star Tiki Barber, tennis pros James Blake and Marion Bartoli, and soccer legend Abby Wambach.
Some celebrities took up running to help them get in shape for a role, such as Theo Rossi in “Sons of Anarchy,” or to jettison an unhealthy lifestyle, a decision made by Death Cab for Cutie band member Ben Gibbard.
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