What you need to know:
- Jepchirchir and Kandie to line up in women’s marathon on Sunday
- Multiple Olympic champ speaks as Great Ethiopian Run organisers announce postponement
In New York City
Ethiopian distance running legend Kenenisa Bekele has addressed the political tension in Addis Ababa, calling upon the central government and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to sit down on the table and negotiate a ceasefire.
The multiple Olympic champion and world distance running record holder spoke as organisers of the Great Ethiopian Run announced the postponement of this year’s race, which was scheduled for next weekend, due to the escalating tension in Addis Ababa.
Bekele was speaking exclusively to Nation Sport upon arrival at the JFK Airport on Wednesday night ahead of this Sunday’s New York City Marathon where he is red-hot favourite to win.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared a nationwide state of emergency on Tuesday as combined TPLF and Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) rebel forces edged closer to Addis Ababa, threatening to take over the capital.
The Prime Minister urged citizens to “take up arms and defend the capital.”
“Our people should march… with any weapon and resources they have to defend, repulse and bury the terrorist TPLF,” Abiy was quoted as saying while declaring the state of emergency.
But Bekele, who like his fellow Ethiopian distance running legend Haile Gebrselassie has vast business interests in Ethiopia, said negotiation was the only way to settle the impasse.
Even as he trained his sights of tackling the challenging New York City course on Sunday, Bekele was concerned about the situation back home where his family lives.
“The situation is bad… things are getting worse,” he said reflecting on the family he has left back home to compete in the “Big Apple” this weekend.
“The best thing is for the government and rebel forces to come down to the negotiation table and discuss a settlement,” he added, with a sense of disappointment etched clearly on his face.
“Nothing short of that will bring peace because both sides are determined to win, and the situation at the moment is not good at all.”
As tension continues to grow in Addis Ababa, organisers of the Great Ethiopian Run, a 10-kilometre road race that’s Africa’s biggest mass participation race, yesterday announced that this year’s competition has been postponed indefinitely.
The race was scheduled for next Sunday, November 14.
“The Management Team at Great Ethiopian Run would like to inform you that due to the State of Emergency in Ethiopia we have regrettably had to take the decision to postpone the 2021 Total Energies Great Ethiopian Run 10km which was due to take place on Sunday 14th November 2021,” race general manager Dagmawit Amare said.
“We are monitoring the situation closely and will be back in touch in the coming weeks with more news about a new date for the race,” she added.
Kenya’s double Olympic 1,500 metres champion Faith Chepng’etich was scheduled to be the celebrity guest of honour at the annual race organized under Gebrselassie’s stable.
Kenya’s Olympic marathon champion Peris Jepchirchir and world half marathon record holder Kibiwott Kandie were at the Media Centre at Central Park for engagements with the media.
Kandie will be making his marathon debut on Sunday riding on the back of a world record in the half marathon of 57 minutes and 32 seconds which he clocked in December last year in Valencia.
“I’ve been training well and after the disappointment of failing to make it to the Olympic Games due to injury, I’m focused on making my debut here in New York,” he said. He is in a stellar field where 39-year-old Bekele boasts the fastest time in the group, a brilliant two hours, one minute and 41 seconds clocked in the Berlin Marathon in September, 2019.
Only Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge has run faster, with his world record 2:01:39, also clocked in Berlin in 2018.
Other Kenyans lined up in the men’s field are Augustine Choge and Albert Korir. Kenyans in the women’s field alongside Jepchirchir (who is the fastest with 2:17:16) are debutant Viola Cheptoo Lagat and Grace Kahura.
Ethiopia’s Ruti Aga (2:18:34) is perhaps the closest challenger.