Athletics: The little and large show

I am a Girl RunIn his wildest dreams, Haile Gebrselassie never imagined the race he founded 11 years ago would become Africa’s largest mass-participation running event.

The man known as the Little Emperor fired the starter’s pistol for the 2001 Great Ethiopian Run, then jumped into the fray to become the first winner. There were 10,000 runners registered that day, along with thousands more “bandits”, who didn’t sign up.

Driven by his enthusiasm, the 2012 edition set off last month from Addis Ababa‘s Meskel Square with more than 36,500 eager participants. Gebrselassie could hardly contain his pride.

“What I expected was a normal race, a race that is organised by the Ethiopians, nothing else,” he says of the prestigious 10-kilometre event that winds through the hilly streets of the Ethiopian capital. “We started small and thanks go especially to Newcastle’s Great North Run organisers. They helped this event. I am really happy now. We are very close to the big international events like the London Marathon and the New York Marathon.”

Gebrselassie befriended Brendan Foster whose company, Nova International, organises the Great Run series across the UK. Along with former British international marathoner Richard Nerurkar and a local organising committee, they helped launch the annual event a year after Gebrselassie won his second Olympic 10,000m gold medal in Sydney. Read more