The Great Ethiopian Run: One Roadrace you don’t want to miss!
The Great Ethiopian Run is the biggest race in all of Africa. I’ve done it twice– and it’s definitely an experience. Thousands of runners line up in matching shirts to race down the streets of Addis.
To be fair, it’s not a serious race. It’s kind of hard to beat your P.R. when it’s so crowded you can’t pass the person in front of you. Now if you’re a real athlete, you can show up extra early when the national runners take off. Then you’re in the big leagues and real competition mode.
For the rest of the 39,972 ish participants, it’s more of a cultural event that you can enter without any training. If you end up needing to walk parts of it, you’ll have plenty of company. And true to Ethiopian culture, you’ll meet lots of friendly people who will strike up a conversation with you.
But there is a catch.
Even though most of the Ethiopians who show up haven’t practiced, they’re naturally runners. Is that racist to say? I don’t know. Maybe. But can you imagine 40,000 Americans running 6 miles without training? It would not be pretty…..
To prove my point, there’s my boyfriend who is Ethiopian and never exercises. He complains when I make him take the stairs instead of the elevator. But on the day of last year’s race, he took off like a gazelle. Seriously, he can run. I couldn’t believe it. My amazement soon turned to annoyance as I realized he could outrun me– even though I had trained! He literally ran the entire 10k without stopping. Wtf. Life isn’t fair. I blamed it on the altitude. Which is something to watch out for if you’re a tourist (Addis Ababa is the 3rd highest capital city in the world). After living here 3 years though, I doubt that excuse is still valid.
On a side note: what I should have done before the race was contact Run Africa. It’s a non-profit started by this girl named Rekik who I just had the pleasure of meeting. She started it “out of a desire to channel elite athletes’ talent and acquired expertise into a viable global business model of tourism which harnesses the growing international thirst for personal fitness and adventure.”
The non-profit takes top runners that due to an extremely competive field didn’t quite make it to the Olympics or other international races. However, they are top runners, and because they dropped out of school early to train, they suddenly find themselves without education or job skills. Through Run Africa, you can set up a regular program if you live here (seriously, I’m going to sign up) or just a one time session if you’re here for a short period of time. It’s a great way to explore running trails, get training advice, and have a fantastic running partner.
Great Ethiopian Run Race Tips:
Sign Up & Package Pick Up
You can sign up online if you’re outside of Ethiopia, or if you live here tickets are available at Haile’s office in Bole beside Friendship Mall. Tickets cost around $50 USD. Deadline to sign up is November 23. If you miss it, I suggest posting a request on Sell & Buy Anything in Ethiopia, and someone will surely sell you their ticket for the right price. They’ll need to pick the packet up for you since they do check ID’s, but after that you can take their t-shirt without any issue.
A few days before the event you can pick up your registration packet. It includes a t-shirt (which always runs a little small) and a few other goodies. It’s not much, but you’ll also get a metal when you cross the finish line. Just note that foreigners who sign up online will pick up their race packets at the Hilton Hotel, but the rest of us who paid in birr here will pick it up at another location.
The Great Ethiopian Run
Whether you’re someone who loves running or just a traveler here for that weekend, I definitely recommend signing up for the Great Ethiopian Run. As the largest road race on the continent that attracts thousands of locals and plenty of foreigners alike, you’re bound to have a great if not slightly wacky experience.