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Nov 24 / Jeremy & Kim

The Great Ethiopian Run

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Every year in November the masses descend upon Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, to participate in the Great Ethiopian Run.  This annual run is an international 10 kilometer road race that offers an exciting and unique experience.  Few running events are filled with as much enthusiasm and energy.  This year it is estimated that more than 35,000 people took part in the race.  Everyone donned in a bright yellow shirt with green sleeves, the roads of Addis Ababa were quickly transformed into an undulating yellow brick road.

Great Ethiopian Run[Over 35,000 people took to the streets of Addis Ababa to participate in the 10th Annual Great Ethiopian Run.]

The Great Ethiopian Run Experience

Every large scale race inherently develops its own attitude and personality. When participating in a race it is often most enjoyed when approached with the same attitude.  Some races are for seasoned and committed runners and are taken very seriously with most participants having trained for months looking to improve upon their personal best time.  To get the most out of the Great Ethiopian Run experience, a different approach and attitude are necessary.  Seasoned runners who come to Ethiopia to participate in this event may end up frustrated if they approach the run with a ‘be the first to finish” attitude.  Walkers and runners complete the same course and start the race at the same time.  Walkers never move to the right.  Participants will suddenly stop in front of you to answer their cell phone, many participants hold hands as the run, and nobody surrounding you really seems that concerned about competing.  But that is all okay, because this race is not about getting your personal best record.  This race is simply a celebration of the sport of running by a country that idolizes long distance athletes.

[This YouTube video does a great job of portraying the spirit and energy of this event.]

The event is a celebration of the sport of running and it is open to anyone, trained or untrained, walker or runner, who is willing to come to Addis Ababa and participate. In fact, it may be one of the few large scale races in the world where the vast majority of participants have not been properly training to run 10 km. Instead, the vast majority of participants come out simply to have fun and enjoy the experience of running alongside 35,000 people. Large groups of people sign up to walk/run the event together. They break into song and dance throughout the race. Vuvuzelas were out in full force this year. Some participants even stop along the route to grab a beer before continuing on, cheered by the crowd as they enter the bar. Participants support each other, offering encouraging words to those who seem tired and cheer on others who suddenly picked up steam and are kicking it in to high gear. The point is not to run as fast as possible. It is not called the Great Ethiopian race because to race is to miss the point. Instead of focusing on your pace and your breathing, to truly get the most out of the Great Ethiopian Run experience, you need to focus on the view of 35,000 participants all Haile Gebreselassiewearing the same shirts, the sounds of Ethiopian music, songs, and dancing, the energy and excitement for the whole event, and the camaraderie and solidarity that exists simply by choosing to run or walk alongside 35,000 other people.

Haile Gebreselassie

It is fitting that it is held in a country that consistently develops and puts forth top elite runners year after year. The Run was established by an Ethiopian legend, Haile Gebreselassie, arguably the greatest distance runner of all time. He currently holds the world record for the marathon, running it in 2:03:59. He has also dominated the 10,000 meter run earning two gold Olympics medals and four World Championship titles in the event, and he will still be competing, at the age of 39, in the London Olympics in 2012. He is Ethiopia most celebrated athlete, not only for his accomplishments on the course, but also for all that he has done to give back to Ethiopia. The Great Ethiopian Run being one of the small contributions to his country and at the same time one of the most important, a true celebration of sport.

[Watch the video above to learn more about Haile Gebresalassie.]

If you ever find yourself heading to Ethiopia in November, be sure to participate in this uniquely Ethiopian experience. You will not regret it. You can learn more about the Great Ethiopian Run at the event website:

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  1. Raymond-ZenMyFitness / Nov 24 2010

    That would be magical to participate in this event. I love running and Ethiopia is like a home for natural born runners.
    Maybe one day I can get there but I probably try to run it hard so I can say I beat an Ethiopian runner, I’d leave out the part he was only 5 years old at the time though!

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