A few weekends ago I did something I wanted to do ever since I arrived in Ethiopia. I took part in the Great Ethiopia Run. In light of the increased security measures the city has been experiencing over the last months there was some trepidation about being in large crowds, but I figured there is no point in living scared. And I am so happy I went.
The Great Ethiopian Run is a 10k road race that attracts more than 35,000 participants each year. Despite the beautiful mountain backdrop you are breathing in all the dust and diesel of Addis as you pound the pavement. Combined with numerous hills and an altitude of 2300 meters it was not the easiest 10k I've ever run but it was definitely one of the most fun.
Your ticket to the race is your t-shirt and as we entered the closed off roads marking the start of the race, we became one of a sea of yellow shirts.
Standing in the massive crowd of people waiting to start there was singing, dancing, some group stretching, and an amazing party atmosphere.
With no way to see the starting line (a newspaper has helpfully shown me it looks like this)
the race started with the surge of the crowd behind us telling us to start moving. The race proceeded a bit like running through a market place, you zigged and zagged through the various speeds of the crowd, intermittently joining in with a cheer and hands thrown in the air. As we crested a hill and started a descent, you could see the mass of yellow bodies ahead of you - it was pretty incredible and definitely motivating.
|A quick photo op 1km in - everyone was doing this!|
A couple of kilometers into the race, I was already watching my breath and monitoring my pace. But the Ethiopians around me barely noticed the hills, they were laughing, chatting, speeding up at will - they are clearly people born to run.
At the end of the race, I laughed when someone asked me if I met my goal time. I had no idea how long it had taken and running through a crowd of 35,000 is definitely not inducive to beating personal bests. But that wasn't really point. Sure there were some elite athletes who walked away with some prize money but the rest of us were there for the experience. An opportunity for the whole city to get together on a Sunday and do what Ethiopians can do like no one else - run.