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The Great Ethiopian Run, where carnival and elite athletes mix

44,000 participants are set to take part in the 17th edition of the Great Ethiopian Run. (Photo: GER)
by Haileegziabher Adhanom, AIPS Young Reporter, Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, November 24, 2017- Every year, during the last weekend of November, you can be certain that the streets of Addis Ababa will be swamped with colorful, joyous runners taking part in the prominent annual Great Ethiopian Run (GER). The event, with its unique, carnival-like magnitude, has an influence that is transferred easily from participants to spectators, will hit the roads on Sunday November 26.

However, the Great Ethiopian Run, Africa’s biggest 10km road race, does not have just the sole purpose of serving as fervently awaited source of annual entertainment for its incredible 44,000 participants. It is also a highly competitive and anticipated event for young and aspired athletes, to carry on their beloved country’s domination in the world of long distance athletics.

Throughout the years, some of Ethiopia’s established and renowned athletes took part and won this revered race, names such as Haile Gebresilassie, Gebereegziabher Gebremaryam, Birhane Adere, and Workinesh Kidane were a few of them. The GER also played a major role by helping young athletes as a spring board to make their breakthrough in the sport they were sweating day and night to become successful in.

Tsegaye Kebede, is one of those athletes who made their leap forward at the Great Ethiopian Run. He was only 20 years old, without an athletics club or contract when he won the seventh edition of the race in 2007, with a time of 29:06.50. He recalled that victory as a “life changer” because of his road to success that followed.

Tsegaye, 30, is currently one of the prominent long distance athletes in the world. Olympic and world Marathon Bronze Medals from Beijing 2008 and Berlin 2009 respectively, are among the accolades he achieved in his unrelenting career. With six major Marathon first place finishes that includes London, Paris and Chicago and other big wins to his name; he is still grateful for the exposure and experience he got from Great Ethiopian Run.

“Winning [the GER] is very challenging, because you are competing with so many champions by themselves, and I believe, that is why athletes who won this race are very successful for such a long time.

You can see the results of athletes such as Getaneh Molla, Birhanu Legese, Senbere Teferi, Netsanet Gudeta, Yigerem Demelash, Yomif Kejelcha and Mosinet Geremew. It is undeniably magnificent and at the same time a very tough race, which helped me and other winners of this course to became who we are today,” Tsegaye told AIPS.

Ermias Ayele, the Race Director at GER, highlighted: “It’s indeed more than a carnival or a jogging race, but if we look at the competition in the elite athletes’ category, which pulls more than 500 athletes, it’s one of the most highly competitive 10km road races in the world, where the top 100 finishers are clocked below the 30 minutes mark.”

The race is known as Ethiopia's own carnival celebration. (Photo: GER)

Through the last 16 years, Great Ethiopian Run excelled in the highest aims set by race organizers and matched the expectations from outsiders. By staging standard races every year, and by giving Ethiopia a new attraction for its wealth of tourism, this time on also with the new form of attraction, a sport tourism sub-sector, or helping local NGOs by collecting and distributing 1.6 million Birr (50,000 EUR) per annum for the last four years, under its “Running for Cause” charity program.

However, one of its unacknowledged big successes is that, GER is forming a valuable competition for Ethiopia’s future talents to be acquainted with their capabilities before hitting the international stage.

And it will not be different when GER stage its eagerly-anticipated 17th edition annual 10km race on the streets of Addis Ababa, on Sunday 26 November 2017, when Rio Olympic 5000m gold medalist Kenyan Vivian Cheriyot takes the podium as guest of honor. Once again, the expectations are of another spectacle, another breakthrough, mass jogging and mass entertainment, because this is the reputation the Great Ethiopian Run has established.

Follow Haileegziabher Adhanom on Twitter @haileadhanom

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