What a day the Great Run was! Instead of being called the Great Race, it is called the Great Run. It did not feel like a race, but more like a running experience. Let me explain:
Instead of having a bib, participants in the run wore a red shirt that they received at registration. When I arrived in Addis, an hour before the race was due to start, the sea of red shirts were already in full-on party mode. In the States, people are often very solemn and nervous before the start of a race. In comparison, the Great Run in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, had a festival-like atmosphere with dancing, music, laughter, and camaraderie.
I had the privilege of receiving a media pass which allowed me to be in the street and at that finish line, taking pictures and GoPro video footage of the event. For the first 25 minutes of the run, I walked a section of the course capturing the spirit of the joyful runners. I have never had so many people wave and smile at me while running! I then made my way to the finish line where I watched the elite men and women come in. It was an incredible sight to observe such talented runners compete with the same fervor and enthusiasm displayed by the other runners. I noticed that at least 75% of the elite runners crossed the finish line blessing themselves. In the region of Ethiopia where I am, there is a large Orthodox Christian population. It was a moving experience to witness these runners paying homage to their faith.
The non-elite runners then began to trickle in, with some faster amateur runners leading the way. This included Workinesh L., the only Yaya Girl who participated, with a sub 39 minute 10k time, on a very challenging, hilly course. Eventually, thousands of runners made their way through the Great Run’s finishing stretch— many still smiling and celebrating their efforts. One of the highlights of the day was meeting the renowned runner, Haile Gebrselassie, who was the race director of the Great Run and embodied the electric energy of the event (trying to get him on a ROO Podcast soon!).
It was an amazing experience to watch, photograph, and film the Great Run (I plan to post a video this week of some of my footage— stay tuned). I hope to someday take part in it as a runner and experience its uplifting festival-party atmosphere, from the other side.