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Thousands of professional and amateur long-distance runners on Sunday converged on the streets of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa for the annual 10km “Great Run”.

Now in its 16th year, the event saw over 42,000 runners despite a six-month state of emergency declared in October following violent anti-government protests. Organizers said the state of emergency did have an effect, though insignificant, on the number of participants, with many international participants citing security fears. This was the first mass gathering after the introduction of the state of emergency.

Abe Gashahun and Foiteyn Tesfaye emerged the surprise winners of the 16th edition of the Great Ethiopian Run (GER) 10km international road race on Sunday, November 20.

“The race was very interesting and challenging at the same time. This is my first time taking part in it. It was very fast and I was told my time is the fastest ever so I am happy,” Foiteyn who represents Messobe Cement Club, said.

Abe Gashahun won in a tight sprint finish ahead of Kenyan athlete Jorum Lumbasi, who became the first male Kenyan athlete to get a place in the top three since Nathan Naibei who finished 2nd in 2005.

“This was a very inspiring race. This is encouraging. I hope I will stand better in the coming days in the international race,” Abe said.

Meanwhile, after the culmination of the race Ethiopian athletics legend Haile Gebre-Selassie said that the 16th Great Ethiopian Run (GER) came to a successful conclusion. Haile is also the Director of GER.

“We were carefully following the situation on the ground. We assured participants that we are determined to carry out the race according to the initial plan,” Haile added.

“Despite the fear or different speculation the event took place in a very colorful way. This might be due to our careful preparation,” he remarked.

Haile is also the current chief of the country’s athletics governing body, the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF). As the President of EAF he pledges that he will do everything possible to improve the performance of the country’s athletics in big international meets like the Olympics and the World Championships.

During his press briefing at the end of the race he said that GER managed to complete the first annual program  with style. “Succeeding in this big event in a peaceful way indicates that the organization is moving on the right track,” Haile said.

He didn’t hide the fact that gathering of people with this magnitude could go to an unexpected end, adding “But as I have seen the Ethiopian people have similar stands when the country is invaded by foreign forces and during sports. This was what I observed today (On Sunday),” he explained.

Fearing a possible protest there were people who didn’t show up after they were registered. Haile concluded that those who missed the opportunity are insignificant minority without specifically giving figures.

GER claims that this is the biggest 10km road race in Africa. The event organizers said that GER began with 10,000 participants 16 years ago but after making steady progress the race touched the 42 thousands mark this season.