What you need to know:
- Interestingly, no non-Ethiopian has won the annual race for the last 19 years, with Kenyans coming close twice in sprint finishes
- Initially, a field of 50,000 would have pounded the streets of the Addis, but because of Covid-19 precautions, a 12,500 have been registered, including 300 elite runners
- What’s special about the Great Ethiopian Run that’s not witnessed in Kenyan races is that the Addis race attracts Ethiopia’s top runners, many of whom have launched their careers at Meskel Square
In Addis Ababa
Twenty years ago, Haile Gebrselassie and Berhane Adere won the inaugural Great Ethiopian Run on the streets of Addis Ababa.
And over the last two decades, the winners’ roll of honour in the 10-kilometre race reads like the who’s who in global distance running.
Sileshi Sihine (2003), Tsegay Kebede (2007), Hagos Gebrhiwet (2012), Tamirat Tola (2015) and Selemon Barega (2017) highlight the list of previous men’s winners.
The women’s roll includes Wernesh Kidane (2002), Tirunesh Dibaba (2003), Wude Ayalew (2008, 2009) and Netsanet Gudeta (2013).
Interestingly, no non-Ethiopian has won the annual race for the last 19 years, with Kenyans coming close twice in sprint finishes.
Which makes it almost automatic that the trend will continue on Sunday when the 20th edition is run on the streets of Addis Ababa, something the Kenyan trio of Solomon Boit, Kennedy Kimutai and Evans Kipkemei wish to change.
“Perhaps the Kenyans never win because they respect their Ethiopian hosts,” race founder Gebrselassie, holder of 27 world records, joked ahead of Sunday’s start.
“Although maybe they will win this time,” he added. “Because the altitude in Iten and Eldoret is almost the same as here in Addis and when I visited Iten recently, I saw the terrain is equally as challenging as that of Addis Ababa.”
The Kenyan trio will be joined by three Eritrean runners as the only foreign elite entries in Sunday’s race.
Initially, a field of 50,000 would have pounded the streets of the Addis, but because of Covid-19 precautions, a 12,500 have been registered, including 300 elite runners.
The race’s start at Meskel Square will be in three waves to avoid congestion, with the finish changed from Meskel Square to the Atlas Hotel in Bole.
On Saturday, race organisers were busy marking the start area with the runners separated by a metre and a half on slots indicated on the tarmac.
The race is usually held in November but wasn’t run last year owing to the coronavirus lockdown, hence it’s early year date this year.
Attracts top runners
Therefore, it will be difficult to gauge the form of defending champions from 2019 men’s winner Berhu Aregawi of Sur Construction team (28 minutes, 22.2 seconds) and women’s champion Global Sport’s Yalemzerf Yehulaw (31:54.2).
What’s special about the Great Ethiopian Run that’s not witnessed in Kenyan races is that the Addis race attracts Ethiopia’s top runners, many of whom have launched their careers at Meskel Square.
Over the last 20 years, the race has grown in leaps and bounds and is traditionally held as part of a series of various races in Ethiopia managed by the Great Ethiopian Run organisation headed by the experienced Ermias Ayele under Gebrselassie’s patronage.
They are also involved in various humanitarian issues, including construction of schools and caring for orphans and vulnerable children.
As part of the build-up to Sunday’s race, race officials and guests visited the Tikureh Lesetoch Ena Lehitsanat Mahiber (TLLM), and organisation that cares for vulnerable women and children.
Also on Saturday, a children’s virtual race, supported by non-governmental organisation Plan International, was organised just to keep the spirit flowing with no fun run organised in Sunday’s main race.
The race’s headquarters at the two-year-old Hyatt Regency Hotel has been muted owing to limitations of interactions forced by Covid-19 precautions, although athletes and guests were last evening treated to the traditional “pasta party” and celebrations to mark the race’s 20th anniversary.