Africa’s happiest feet: the Great Ethiopian Run

City on the move: two entrants in last year’s race (credit: The Guardian)
City on the move: two entrants in last year’s race (credit: The Guardian)

The Great Ethiopian Run is Africa’s biggest fun run. It’s colourful and chaotic, and there’s no better way to see the capital Addis Ababa.

Addis Ababa is not a city that naturally lends itself to running. The potholes are deep. The traffic is hectic. Street corners are makeshift markets. And throughout the city, buildings, roadways and train lines spring up almost overnight, like mushrooms. Yet here I am, one of 40,000 people, my face painted with the colours of the Ethiopian flag, laughing and dancing and jogging through the streets as part of the biggest race in Africa.

There are few phrases treated with such scorn in the running world as “fun run”. They are for beginners and are not worth travelling halfway around the world for. But if one event can reclaim the phrase, it’s the Great Ethiopian Run. Founded by Haile Gebrselassie, the greatest distance runner of all time and a national hero, it’s a 10km race through the heart of this bustling, fascinating city.

What strikes you first when you arrive in Addis is the unique light: a sunset-warm glow softened by a dust filter – regardless of the actual time of day. Navigating the streets requires nerves of steel – there only seem to be two sets of working traffic lights in the whole place, and drivers view even these as purely decorative. High above it all is the growing city’s ever-present scaffolding. Built from the most fragile-looking bamboo, it makes that famous picture of workers picnicking on a girder atop 30 Rockefeller Center look like a health and safety ad.

Read more at: The Guardian