Hosts dominate Great Ethiopian Run, Kenyan challenge withers

Ethiopia’s Tsige Gebreselama crosses the finish line to win the women’s title at the 20th Great Ethiopian Run in Addis Ababa on January 10, 2020.

Photo credit: Jiro Mochizuki

What you need to know:

  • Initially programmed to feature 50,000 runners, Sunday’s race was trimmed to 12,500 in compliance with Covid-19 protocols issued by Ethiopian authorities.
  • The mass runners started off in three distinct waves at the iconic Meskel Square to help decongest the course, with every runner required to run with a mask, save for the 300 elites.

In Addis Ababa

Home runners continued with their stranglehold of the annual Great Ethiopian Run 10-kilometre road race winning the men’s and women’s titles on Sunday with Kenya’s challenge falling outside the top 20 on a tough Addis Ababa course.

Abe Gashahun won the men’s race in 28 minutes, 19.10 seconds, just a second outside Deriba Merga’s 15-year-old race record, to become only the third runner after Hagos Gebrhiwet (2012, 2018) and Azmeraw Bekele (2010, 2014) to win the title twice.

Tsigie Gebrselama, the 2019 World Cross Country Championships under-20 bronze medallist who also won bronze in the 3,000 metres at the 2018 World Under-20 Championships in Tampere, Finland, won the women’s race in 32:33.

The Kenyan trio of Kennedy Kimutai (29:50.16), Solomon Boit (30:15.16) and Evans Kipkemei Kurui (30:50.66) finished outside the top 20 in 21st, 27th and 35th places respectively, suffering the effects of Addis Ababa’s climate.

The Ethiopian capital, at an elevation of 2,355 metres above sea level, is virtually as high as Iten (2,400m) with Eldoret (2,090m) close.

No non-Ethiopian has won either the men’s or women’s titles here since the race was founded in 2001.

“The course was tough with many hill and coupled with the weather conditions here, my body could not respond positively,” said Boit who trains in Iten under the legendary coach Colm, O’Connell.

“We went well with the pack until the five-kilometre mark but then after that my body didn’t feel too good,” added Boit, who finished fourth in the 10,000 metres at the 2018 World Under-20 Championships in Tampere, Finland, in a race won by Kenya’s Rhonex Kipruto.

Boi said he would now shift focus to the 10,000 metres on the track with an eye on the Kenyan trials for the Tokyo Olympics.

“I agreed with Bro Colm that this would be my last road race and the focus now will be on training for track competitions with Tokyo in mind,” he said.

Kipkemei and Kimutai also complained about the weather conditions, both saying they were comfortable with the pace but started suffering midstream.

In 2016, men’s race winner Gashahun (28:53) outsprinted Kenya’s Jorum Lumbasi (28:54) to win his first title here in one of the race’s closest ever finishes.

Lumbasi’s second place was the best ever placing for a Kenyan in this race along with Nathan Naibei’s silver medal in 2005 while in 2011, Nicholas Kipkemboi finished third.

But on Sunday, Gashahun, running for Elite Sports Management, won more comfortably after being pushed by his teammate Milesa Mengesha and Tadese Worku (Demadona Athletics Promotion).

The women’s race was more straightforward with Gebrselama (Ethio Athletics) winning in 32:33, which was well outside the race’s fastest time of 31:55 clocked last year by Yalemzerf Yehualaw, bronze medalist at the World Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland, three months ago.

The Great Ethiopian Run was celebrating its 20th anniversary on Sunday, having been founded, and won, by Ethiopian distance running legend Haile Gebrselassie in 2001.

Gebrselassie flagged off yesterday’s races and awarded prizes to the winners accompanied by Ethiopian running legends Gete Wami, Aselefech Mergia and Berhane Adere.

Initially programmed to feature 50,000 runners, Sunday’s race was trimmed to 12,500 in compliance with Covid-19 protocols issued by Ethiopian authorities.

The mass runners started off in three distinct waves at the iconic Meskel Square to help decongest the course, with every runner required to run with a mask, save for the 300 elites.

Leading results:

Men

1. Abe Gashahun (Elite Sports Management) 28:19

2. Tadese Worku (Demadona Athletics Promotion) 28:20

3. Milkesa Mengesha (Elite Sports Management) 28:39

4. Dagnachew Adere (Commercial Bank Sports Club) 28:53

5. Lencho Tesfaye (Gelan Athletics Sports Club) 29:00

Women

1. Tsigie Gebreselama (Ethio Athletics) 32:33

2. Medihen Gebreselasie (Commercial Bank Sports Club) 32:35

3. Gebeyanesh Ayele (Defence/ Mekelakeya) 32:45

4. Bosena Mulate (Amhara Maremiya) 32:52

5. Melkenat Wedu (Debre Berhan University) 32:55

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