Great Ethiopian Run – Fast, furious and noisy

12th March 2018

After returning from the 2000 Sydney Olympics with his second consecutive 10,000m gold medal, Haile Gebrselassie made plans to launch a race in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. His intention: give a platform to the next generation. Never could he have foreseen how enormous the Great Ethiopian Run would become.

Last November more than 44,000 participants dressed in identical red and yellow T-shirts ran and walked the 10km course which starts and finishes in Ethiopia’s historic Meskel Square. The race is – and has long been – Africa’s largest road race.

The carnival atmosphere for last November’s 17th edition of the race was all inclusive and lively with a pre-race reggae performance adding to the overall experience.

The elite race set off at 8am from an adjacent street in order to protect the elites from being swarmed by their fans. Thousands were lined up at the mass start before 7am, some dressed in costumes and with their faces painted. Half an hour after Gebrselassie had fired the starter’s pistol, people were still crossing the start line.

Other stars of Ethiopian distance running including Meseret Defar the 2012 Olympic 5,000m champion, Gebremariam Gebregziabiher, 2009 World Cross-Country champion, Tsegay Kebede, 2008 Olympic marathon bronze medalist and former 10,000m world champion Berhane Adere were there. So too two global stars from Kenya: Vivian Cheruyiot and Lornah Kiplagat.

When it was over Solomon Berga (28:36) and Zeynen Yemer (32:30) were crowned champions of the 2017 race and received their awards from Gebrselassie himself. Winning this race comes with a decent cash prize. First place earns 100,000 birr, the rough equivalent of US $3,800. Considering that the race is run at 2,350m above sea level and the temperatures on the weekend hovered at around 20C with no cloud cover, these performances were incredible.

The party continued at Meskel Square long after the live national television broadcast had ended as runners gathered for photos on the street and at local bars along the route. The whole event had the feel of a huge carnival which had grabbed the attention of the nation. No wonder places for this race sell out more quickly than in anywhere else in Africa.

Tadele Travel Director Richard Nerurkar has been involved in the Great Ethiopian Run since 2001. If you’re keen to include this iconic Ethiopian running event in your tour of Ethiopia, please get in touch

Paul Gains

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