The Great Ethiopian Run

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Last Sunday, I participated in the “Great Ethiopian Run”. Not that I am a great runner, far from that, but after completing the 7km “Every One”

 

run in Hawassa earlier this year I decided to give the Addis Abeba 10km a try.

 

So I picked up some regular exercise in the gym and tried to get fit enough in time. I was worried though as I never really completed 10km during my preparations and my knees and calf muscles regularly gave me some trouble.

Preparation and training for such an event is very important indeed and should be much more consistent and begin much earlier than the time I allowed myself. Now, I never had any ambition to compete with front runners as this would be far out of my reach but I aimed at completing the run in a time within my own capability. To be able to achieve this I indeed had to train regularly and make sure to get into better shape. Next to stepping up the pace and getting stronger, focus on technique is important as well. This, combined with paying attention to more proportional intake in terms of food and drink, should have provided a sufficient basis to achieve my goal.

Much like in doing business, setting a realistic goal, working out a strategy, making the resources available, planning the steps to be taken and strictly following the plan, will in principle increase the chances for the goal the be achieved. Setting a realistic goal is especially important, which should  be derived from the individual’s or company’s capacities.

Having said that, we must realise that organising an event like this is not an easy task and takes a lot of planning and precise execution of each of the planned steps. The “Great Ethiopian Run” as an organization has certainly proven to have the capacity to manage such a project very well indeed, based on a number of years of experience now as well as on the professional expertise of its management and staff. This organization is a good example of an organization with a clear mission and it is clear that all the organization and its staff do is in support of its mission. In addition I noticed that the federal police also made sure that security risks were kept at a minimum.

Now, the preparations, the excitement before the race, the collective participation of so many other people,  and the satisfaction afterwards  all made this a very joyful event to be part of.

The thing is that the “Great Ethiopian Run”, under the inspirational leadership of Haile Gebre Selassie, organised the event not only to give amateur and elite runners the opportunity to participate in an official race, but also to raise funds from the 36,000 or so participants for a good cause with the motto “Run for a Child”. The annual race is sponsored by a number of organisations, while all participants pay a fee to register. This is a great example of how local resources can be generated for a good cause, while having fun at the same time. Sports as well as music provide great opportunities to rally people around or behind a good cause and hopefully we will see more of such initiatives in the future.

I am convinced myself that resources for example for development projects, emergency responses and charities can be generated locally much more than we care to believe. After all this is a country with cultures and traditional systems that provide safety nets for community members, that can be tapped into and learnt from. Unfortunately, such traditional systems have over the years given way to the development of the so called dependency syndrome, which feeds the idea that somebody else has to take the initiative, solve problems, and provide money and services. While external support is certainly required and useful, the issue of ownership is now at stake. There are other ways though to get things off the ground. There are other ways of doing things and there are plenty such opportunities if you ask me, turning things around from being dependent to taking initiative and responsibility. Are we going to continue accepting the poverty we see around us everyday and expecting the government and donor organizations to do something about it? Or are we going to take social responsibility and do something about it as individuals and business community?

According to UNICEF, for example, an estimated 4000 children die each day from a lack of clean water. In many rural areas in Ethiopia, women travel vast distances every day to collect water for their families. What if we find a way to set aside five cents for every bottle of water or soft drink bought? Those five cents, drops in the bucket, could soon turn into an ocean of aid. What if some of the proceeds paid for medical treatment in clinics and hospitals is set aside to sponsor patients who are not able to pay for medical services? What if private schools set aside some of their school fees to sponsor students from a poorer background. In fact I know of a school which does offer such sponsorships. And there are no doubt more such examples,  that should inspire us indeed and encourage us to become more creative in tapping into our own abilities and mobilize our own resources.