The Great Ethiopian Run is an annual 10-kilometre road running event which takes place in mid-November in Addis Ababa. The competition was first envisioned by Ethiopian great runner Haile Gebrselassie, Peter Middlebrook and Abi Masefield in late October 2000, following Haile’s return from the 2000 Summer Olympics. The 10,000 entries for the first edition quickly sold out and over the two decades the event attracted hundreds of thousands of participants.
The elite race attracts a number of prominent runners. Haile Gebrselassie won the inaugural men’s race and at the second edition many of the country’s top long-distance runners competed, with Gebreegizabher Gebremariam, Sileshi Sihine and Kenenisa Bekele comprising the top three in the men’s race and Worknesh Kidane and Tirunesh Dibaba taking first and second in the women’s race. The race is also synonymous for providing impact to society under the initiative “Running for a cause” where the race is used as vehicle for fundraising to support people in need in the community.
For the 21st edition of the run, Capital drew links with Dagmawit Amare, General Manager at Great Ethiopian Run for an inside look at this year’s run. Excerpts;
Capital: It has been 20 years since the inception of ‘The great Ethiopian run.’ How have the last 20 years been?
Dagmawit Amare: The first great run was held on November 25, 2001. Twenty years is not by any means a simple time, it is a long journey which has been encompassed by different milestones. I have been here for the last 18 years in different roles and within the last 20 years, the great run has achieved different progresses. Due to the pandemic, we have decreased the number to 25,000 which is still higher than last year and less than the previous years.
The other thing that the great run has achieved is that it has become a large public driver in terms of changing the public awareness on sport. Whenever we promote our races’ we not only promote the races but we also give training to adopt active health living in the society.
The other things we do in relation with the race are different kinds of charity work. There is a campaign called running for cause with the aim of helping.
Capital: What were the main challenges throughout the last 20 years?
Dagmawit: The Great Ethiopian Run is the first of its kind in Ethiopia, and being the first always presents challenges. Using sport as a business was tough. The whole aspect of commercializing sport, such as getting sponsors, doing consistent athletic races with the public are some of the challenges. And in context of our country also timing at times is an issue. In one of our races, two of our participants had died during the competition which is an unfortunate challenge. However, from all of the challenges we have continued to learn from them as we seek to provide a great experience.
As for this year, we are working round the clock to focus on all precautions, so that we can have an all rounded fun experience.
Capital: What are your precautions regarding Covid-19?
Dagmawit: We have decreased the number of participants; there will be availability of hand sanitizers at multiple locations around the start and finish; and a requirement for participants to wear masks in all assembly areas at the start until the point at which they start the run and after they finish the run will be mandatory.
Furthermore, a wave system will be used for the start which will enable participants to take part in the run with a degree of distancing.
The course will be a point-to-point course with a finish area that is different and separated from the start. We will have a system in place that guards against the gathering of large numbers of participants as they exit the finish.
Capital: How was your overall preparation for this year’s great Ethiopian run?
Dagmawit: The 2021 TotalEnergies Great Ethiopian Run International 10km will take place in Addis Ababa on Sunday 14th November, 2021. We have been heading this race for the last 21 years, and from our preparation this year, about 25,000 participants will be able to take part.
Last year the number was only 12,500 due to the pandemic, and this year round, the number has doubled to 25,000 participants although being less, than the years pre-pandemic. Doing such huge events in a global pandemic time needs great preparation. The good part is for a long time we have been planning to start the race by three waves to minimize the crowding and following the success of wave, we will deploy the same.
Additionally, we are staging a virtual run for international participants who are not able to travel to Ethiopia.
Similarly, a number of precautionary measures have been put in place to guard against the spread of the virus. All participants have had to sign a waiver form saying they undertook not to take part in the race if they had any underlying health problems that would make them more vulnerable to transmitting or becoming infected by the COVID-19 virus.
All participants this year shall also receive together with their race t-shirt, a WHO-approved 3-layer cotton mask. Moreover, race packs will be distributed at 8 selected TOTAL service stations with participants selecting their preferred collecting station at the time of registration. Race packs will be provided in the week before the race where all participants will receive mask together with their race t-shirt.
Similarly, participants are strongly advised not to come to the race, if they do not feel well in the 14 days leading up to race day. Temperature checks as participants arrive at the start will be administered. We have likewise increased number of health workers on the race day and it is mandatory to wear a mask.
Capital: How is your fund raising scheme ferrying on?
Dagmawit: As part of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), we use the 2021 TotalEnergies Great Ethiopian Run International 10km which will take place on Sunday 14th November 2021 as a vehicle for fundraising to support people in need in our community. For the past 16 years, our “Running for a Cause” fundraising campaign has been an effective platform for raising funds and awareness about the work of our beneficiaries. To date, we have been able to raise more than 15.7 million Birr through this work.
This year our fundraising target is 650,000 birr. These funds will be divided between two non-governmental organizations: the “Youth Athletics Project” working with disadvantaged teenagers to improve their personal development and the “Grace Center for Children and Families” supporting parents, orphans and juvenile delinquents.
Great Ethiopian Run has used different Fundraising methods to meet its target such as distributing Pledge Form, visiting a number of Companies, organizing different Fundraising events and so forth.
Capital: What kind of challenges did you face during the last run?
Dagmawit: Since it was our first time facing the pandemic we have been working a lot to cope with challenges, of course we had to be very cautious because of the number of participants but to this end we deployed a lot of manpower, to ensure all health protocols were observed.
This year the vaccination makes it better. We have health station as well as 500 volunteers who are on standby to give participants a great experience. In the previous run, temperature checks were carried out as participants arrived at the start; there the course was a point-to-point course with a finish area different and separated from the start. Medals were given to all finishers. There was also a wide availability of hand sanitizers at multiple locations around the start and finish; and a requirement for participants to wear masks in all assembly areas at the start until the point at which they started the run and after they finished the run.
A wave system was used for the start which enabled participants to take part in the run with a degree of distancing. Although we had used wave starts in the past, for this race we employed multiple waves with no more than 3,000 participants in each wave.
Capital: How many international participants are you expecting to come?
Dagmawit: Great run has seen good results when it comes to sports tourism. Tourists have been coming to Ethiopia with the aim of participating in the race. Last year alone, 400 people came to Ethiopia to participate in the race. This year we are expecting about 100 people to come to Ethiopia for the race, and an additional 150 participants to take part virtually.
Capital: What makes this year’s race special?
Dagmawit: In support of the Ethiopian Government’s initiatives to address issues of climate change, Great Ethiopian Run is promoting a “Go Green” campaign in connection with the 2021 TotalEnergies Great Ethiopian Run International 10km in November 2021 and carrying forward to our races planned in 2022.
Over the coming months we will be implementing an action plan with the twin goal of working for the good of our environment and fostering a greater awareness about the importance of green issues. To this regard, we will minimize carbon emissions, recycle wherever possible, encourage proper disposal of rubbish, use less plastic as well as use less paper.
We no longer use paper for registering participants. All registration has been done electronically. Participants also receive their race magazine electronically replacing the previously printed magazines.
Capital: Is there any special guest from international athletes?
Dagmawit: Faith Kipyegon, Kenya’s double Olympic 1500m champion and one of the ten 2021 World Athletics Female Athlete of the Year nominees will appear alongside Haile Gebrselassie who will be the VIP guest at the 2021 TotalEnergies Great Ethiopian Run. The visit to Addis Ababa by the 27-year old Kenyan whose second Olympic title in Tokyo confirmed her status as the world’s leading 1500m runners will be her first-ever trip to Ethiopia.