By Elizabeth Egan
In November 2015, I made my first trip to Ethiopia. I’d been to Kenya several times before, and fancied exploring Africa a bit more. I expected Ethiopia to be similar, but was blown away by the contrast between the two East African nations. Ethiopia was more beautiful than I could ever have imagined! I was staying right on the edge of Addis Ababa, and got to experience both city and country life. I wanted to experience the running and for two weeks immersed myself in the famous Ethiopian running culture. A memorable trip concluded with participation in the famous Great Ethiopian Run, Africa’s largest road race.
In March 2014 I was lucky enough to return to Ethiopia. This time I stayed at the magnificent Yaya Village in Sululta, just north of the capital. During my three week stay I ate well, trained hard, made friends, and met some of Ethiopia’s most famous distance runners. I sampled Ethiopian food, visited some of the Addis Ababa’s most important museums, and soaked up as much as I could of warm sunshine. Early every morning I was awestruck by the beautiful countryside in which I was running, and every day I learned something new and amazing about Ethiopian culture. While it may be a bit dramatic to suggest that I fell in love with the country, I definitely developed an affinity with the place, and can’t wait for my next trip this autumn.
Places for runners to visit
Any running safari should begin in Addis Ababa. Recreational runners and wannabe stars train along the tiered steps of Meskel Square, one of the most unique places in the city to run. Yaya Village is the top place for visiting athletes to stay, and runners of all levels can benefit from the excellent facilities and nutritious meals available at the camp. Those staying at Yaya are likely to meet Ethiopian runners of note, as well as famous runners from abroad. Most athletes based in Addis Ababa train in the surrounding Entoto forests at least a couple of times each week. The long but worthwhile trip to Bekoji, the town from which many of Ethiopia’s most famous athletes hail, is also highly recommended.
Take the plunge
Ethiopia is beautiful beyond words, and full of surprises. The people are warm, funny and incredibly proud of their country. And for good reason. While their history may have had dark periods, their future is bright. And every day on the streets of Addis Ababa the sense of vitality, optimism and drive is tangible.
I was apprehensive before I visited Ethiopia, but those apprehensions were quickly washed away as soon as I set foot on Ethiopian soil. I never felt unsafe, and found it easier to communicate than I expected. I cannot recommend it enough, and encourage anyone considering Ethiopia as a tourist destination to hesitate no more, and to plunge into the cradle of mankind. Anyone interested in running should definitely have Ethiopia on their bucket list.
Elizabeth Egan is a guest writer for ethiosports.com. She has a degree in Sport and Exercise Sciences from the University of Limerick, and a PhD from Liverpool John Moores University.
Elizabeth Egan has ran for most of her life, and considers herself a true running geek. In 2013 she published a book entitled ‘Notes from Higher Grounds: An altitude training guide for endurance athletes’, which details some of the best places in the world to train at altitude. Addis Ababa does, of course, feature among the most popular destinations.
The book can be purchased through www.altitudetrainingcamps.com.