And that’s a wrap for the first country on our list, Ethiopia. Well almost, just waiting to board our plane. 5 queues tackled before 9 o’clock. Not great with a hangover, but yesterday was definitely worth it!
It began with the Great Ethiopian Run, starting at Meskel Square at 9 am. We left the hotel at 7 to make sure we weren’t too far back in the crowed of 42,000 people. It was a good tactic, we were only a few rows back so we got to spend an hour soaking up the atmosphere with all the other runners dressed identically in our green and yellow t-shirts. Even though we were closer to the front than most it still took 3 minutes 20 to get across the start line, and once we were it was probably about 2.5km until I was doing any real running! Zan and I managed to keep together for the first part, weaving in and out of the people who were already walking, I don’t blame them too much, the altitude soon takes its toll! In the end, I think I was second non-african over the line, although no chip timing means I wont get an official result, the clock was ticking over at about 44 minutes when I crossed the line giving me a time of just inside 41 minutes, I’ll have a crack at the 40 minute barrier another day. Suzanne’s knee just about held up and she finished about 5 minutes behind me and was also the second Female European across the line. She also had to deal with the pride of the locals, understandably not wanting to be beaten by “ferangie” (Amharic for white) I had a good sprint with about 5 guys down the home strait, think I pipped most of them, but demoralisingly they looked like this was their one run of the year! I will need more than a week to get used to this altitude!
After a quick turn around back at the hotel, Run Fast had organised for us to attend the race after party. Back up to Yaya Village for food, drink and dancing laid on by the phenomenon that is Haile Gebrsellasie, having been already made up just to meet the guys a few times this week, we spent the next hour and a half dancing with him and drinking his hotel’s home made beer: Tej. It was the most surreal but enjoyable experience you could imagine! His famous grin only falling to ensure he was making the correct facial expressions for certain dances. Its clear this is a guy who knows how to have fun, as well as spending his life turning himself into the greatest distance runner to ever live (in my opinion).
It was the second time we had met him in as many days, the night before the race we also went to the race’s past party. We managed to meet lots of other international groups, who were also racing. Including a group from London Heathside who had been around other parts of Ethiopia before settling in Addis for the race. Gebrsellassie posed for group photos and spoke, although I didn’t see him eat any pasta, I guess he wasn’t racing and anyway I ensured I ate an extra portion for him!
To finish race day off we headed back to our hotel (the Beer Garden Inn) which brews its own german beer on site and sells it in 3 litre towers. Hydration after all , particularly at altitude, is key to recovery so the large serving sizes came in handy. The group made it through three towers over the course of the night, managing to also squeeze in a meal at some point (bit hazy), plus an extra stein before hand ensuring that we had adequately recovered from the days exertions in time for our 5.30 am wake up call this morning to get to the airport for our flights.
Well played Ethiopia, you’ve set us on our way nicely!