Over the course of this Great Ethiopian Run (GER) all seemed to agree on one point: This was an event that produces young athletes with great potential. In this regard, the event went far beyond the expectations of the organizers, who have achieved what was thought to be almost impossible. Many young athletes, including the London Women’s Marathon gold medallist Tiki Gelana, first came to prominence through the GER.
As usual, the 12th edition of the GER held on November 25, brought promising young talents. In the women’s event Tsige Girma finished second in 33 minutes and 30 seconds ahead of Belaynesh Olijira, who won third place in 33:33. Belaynesh is quite well known in international circles but the newcomer Tsige outpaced her. In the men’s event, the second place winner Birhanu Legesse, was a surprise to everyone. He came in at a time of 28 minutes and 33 seconds, but he doesn’t have a club that he belongs to. In his first attempt, beating experienced runners like Ayele and Lelissa, is indeed something substantial. Expectations are that clubs will be scrambling for his services shortly. This is also one of the contributions of the GER. Another role that the GER plays is the introduction of a new culture in the society. When the first international run with mass participation began in Ethiopia with the10km road race in 2001, the participants numbered just10, 000. “The biggest worry at the start was our inability to predict the reception that the event would get from the people. Fearing this, we produced only 10,000 shirts and medals. To be on the safe side we made the entry fee 10 birr,” Ermias Ayele, General Manager of the GER, said. He added that tickets were sold out in just a few days. “Year after year the number of participants has dramatically gone up to reach the current level of 36, 000, making it Africa’s greatest road race,” he said. People are now accustomed to living with and even expect to participate in the road run. It was originally thought that the great run would take place once a year. But by this time, the run is organized over 20 times a year, in one form or another. Surprisingly enough, in almost all cases, the number of participants have been greater than the organizers have anticipated. This year the event included fundraising for the Grand Renaissance Dam. The 125th anniversary of Addis Ababa was also celebrated with the season’s GER. When the event first began 11 years ago in 2001, one of its main goals was to raise funds for the construction of the Sendafa athletics village. In this regard, during the first two runs, the GER had contributed over 100 thousand birr. One other significant contribution of the GER is its image-building character. Referring to this in a recent press conference, Ethiopian athletics legend Haile GebreSelassie, said the GER attracts huge crowds of running tourists. According to him, the GER has contributed a lot more than expected in promoting Ethiopia to the outside world. Last but not least, the GER’s attraction of sponsorship could be seen as a precedent for all other event organizers. Big institutions like the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, Ethiopian Airlines and Total Ethiopia sponsored the event, one after the other. The United Nations organ, specifically the UNICEF, different embassies and NGOs have been working with the GER for the last 11 years. The participation of all these institutions has shown the importance of the GER which promotes their view. In all, the GER has, without dispute, immensely contributed to the country’s developing new culture.