BOULDER, Colo. –In an environment where most athletes run for individual fame these days, three Ethiopian athletes – Lelisa Desisa, Tilahun Regassa and Tadesse Tola-  showed the rest of the athletic world that there is no shame in sharing both glory and prize money. 

The three compatriots talked among themselves before the race and decided to finish together if there were no Kenyan athletes in the final phase of the competition. 

After breaking free from two Kenyans in the third mile, the Ethiopians entered Folsom Field in unison to a huge roar from the crowd of 50,000. 

Expecting an all-out sprint to the finish, the crowd roared ever louder when it became apparent the Ethiopians instead would circle the track together and cross the tape as one. 

“We didn’t even try to race each other,” said Regassa, the 2009 champion. “We tried to go together.”

As race officials attempted to separate them just past the finish line into first, second and third place, the three runners adamantly refused to be sorted into any order. 

Nevertheless, the organizers listed Desisa as finishing first 0.03 seconds ahead of Regassa with a time of 29 minutes, 16.93 seconds and 0.15 seconds ahead of Tola. 

The victories also earned Desisa $3,750 for finishing first, Regassa $2,750 for securing second, Tola $2,250 for taking third, and they also received a $15,000 check to share for winning the International Team Challenge. But once again, the trio surprised everyone when they said that although they couldn’t officially share the win, they would share the $8,750 winnings, with each athlete taking a little over $2,916. 

After crossing the finish line, they gathered for a group hug with two-time champion Mamitu Daska and Amane Gobena, who had given Ethiopia a 1-2 finish in the women’s race minutes earlier. 

While all three athletes need to be commended for their unselfish behavior and great sportsmanship, Regassa, being the defending champion, deserved an extra pat on the back as he could have chosen to overrun Desisa and Tola and keep the glory for himself.