Running Strong

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(Photo: Anteneh Aklilu)

When the Great Ethiopian Run started it was not the biggest event in Africa, now is one of the largest, and recognized as one of the top twenty best road races in the world. The top two in Africa are the Two Oceans Marathon in South Africa and Great Ethiopian Run.
The Great Ethiopian Run is an event management company specializing in mass participation running events. Since its inception Great Ethiopian Run has staged over 100 races in different parts of Ethiopia.
The Great Ethiopian Run received a trophy as they won Best International Running Event. Capital sat down with Ermiyas Ayele General Manager of Great Ethiopian Run to talk about the awards and this year’s events.

Capital: The Great Ethiopian Run has been recognized as one of the planet’s best races what does the award mean to you?
Ermiyas Ayele: Challenge Awards are presented by Runners World and powered by ”Let’s Do This,“ the award aims to recognize the best challenge events, organization, charities, communities and individuals. For the year over 2018/19.It is one of the world’s biggest online entry platforms with over 18,000 race events currently listed on its site and over 1 million monthly website visits.
Great Ethiopian Run has won the international race category for which is one of 13 award categories which also include cycling and multi-sport events including race events in the international race category include the famous New York City Marathon and the Boston Marathon, the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town.
So the awards means a lot for us, it is recognition for a long period of hard work, as you know the great Ethiopian run has going on for the last 18 years in making good numbers of participants, and create a good atmosphere. in the competition big events like, New York Marathon, one of the biggest, Boston Marathon, one of the oldest which is over 100 years were included, so to be in that competition and to be recognized, means we are doing something special, so It encourages me and my team that we are in a good truck in delivering international events. As you know tourism has a big potential for Ethiopia and this recognition will help in attracting big running tourists to come and see Ethiopia. It is also part of branding Ethiopia to the rest of the world which help tourism directly, but at the same time it helps to attract FDI, beside it magnify the image of the country provided the peace in our country will be sustained.

Capital: Tell us about challenges you have gone through over the last 18 years.
Ermiyas: There was a lack of experience in managing a race and there were not any event management companies at the time. If you go to Paris or Berlin, the marathon organizers work with companies to provide barricades and other materials, but here you need to develop some because they are not locally available or you have to produce a lot like the Olympics, or the World Championships, the level of planning is high many people fail to plan ahead when they organize events. We work on planning the run a year in advance. This means that on November 17, the afternoon after the race we go over feedback and think about how we can improve for the next year and begin planning for the next year’s race.
The challenge is a lot of people think that they can do plan this type of event in a short period of time. Many people ask why we ask people to register six months in advance. However, if they wait until later there will not be space.

Capital; What about the success?
Ermiyas: The success is doing the event without interruption. The success is event management, as they say event management is not rocket science it is all about experience. If you have the experience, you can anticipate problems and situations you may encounter. Doing each event successfully each year helps us develop a very good strong team in the office as well as to over 30 professional teams in helping us to deliver the overall successes having an annual successful event that takes place every year, that brings everyone together for the image of the country as well. In addition to the strong staff members there are also volunteers who work with us. We use over 400 volunteers for the event and such activity has an impact on the culture of volunteerism.

Capital: Talk about your motto and your fund-raising brand.
Ermiyas: The motto or slogan of this year is “girls to be seen, heard and valued” which have to do with women’s recognition, that is the main message of this year. We change the message every year. Running for a cause is our official fundraising activity which we have been doing for the past 18 years to show that running adds value.

Capital: You are doing to charity to the community.
Ermiyas: In the past we raised and distributed for over a dozen charity organizations, but this year we plan to raise two million birr, we were able to raise close to one million birr last week, so we are already half way there. For this year’s plan we want to build a school in Waghimra Zone, Amhara regional state, as you know the zone is in a very remote, inaccessible place where there are over 400 schools under shade trees, Literarily tree, branches are used where even teachers kneel down to teach. As you know Haile Gebreselassie built one school so we want to take his leadership to build another school.
We have tried to raise one million birr so far, the rest hopefully will be collected on race day and we will go to Waghimira Zone to lay the foundation and when the school is finalized, we want to do an event for the community. So building a sustained school, that paves an opportunity for the community is something that we can do for this year.
The money that we have been raising is increasing, Last year we were able to collect 1.8 million birr, a year before it was 1.6 so it has been increasing so doing charity work is a healthy business that has been partnered with NGO,s the support of over a dozen of local charity organizations.
For such activities, the World Running Organization, the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) the Great Ethiopian Run are the winners of the inaugural AIMS Social Award. The award, highlights races working towards achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Capital: What other activities are you working on and what is your plan?
Ermiyas: In recent years our focus has been on taking mass-participation races to all corners of Ethiopia; developing capacity in the office and event teams which are staffed by Ethiopians; and working with sponsors on a range of publicity campaigns.
Great Ethiopian Run has consulted on races in Africa including the Millennium Marathon in Accra, Ghana and the Great South Sudan Run in Juba, South Sudan.

Capital: Anything that you want to add?
Ermiyas: For this year we are obliged to change the course of the race in connection to the construction of the Sarbet-Kera road and we have to change it back to the palace route as the palace is opened to public and we advice all participants to come on time and do some physical activities in the mean time before the day of the race.