Running

Running is Ethiopia’s national sport, enjoying a profile comparable to that of football in Europe or baseball in the USA, and the country has produced many world-conquering marathon runners.

  • Ethiopia earned its first Olympic gold medal in 1960, when Abebe Bikila, running barefoot, won the men’s marathon in Rome. He repeated the feat - this time wearing shoes - four years later in Tokyo.
  • Ethiopian long-distance runners have claimed another 19 Olympic gold medals since 1964. Champions include the three-time gold medallist Kenenisa Bekele and  two-time 10,000m winner Haile Gebrselassie, who also held the world marathon record from 2007 to 2011.
  • The current Olympic record holder for the women’s marathon is Tiki Gelana, who finished first at London in 2012.
  • The 10km Great Ethiopian Run (www.ethiopianrun.com), held in Addis Ababa every November since 2001, attracts around 40,000 local and international participants.
  • Established in 2014, the annual Ethiotrail (www.ethiotrail.com) is a trail running marathon set in scenic Abijatta-Shala National Park in the Great Rift Valley. The third edition, with half-marathon and 12km options, is set for August 2016.
  • The 14km Wenchi Lake Trail Run (http://www.wenchilaketrail.com), held every January, follows a high altitude trail around the circumference of the crater lake on Mount Wenchi about 100km west if Addis Ababa.
  • Outside of race time, visitors can join the local athletes that train at Meskel Square in central Addis Ababa every morning and evening. The Entoto Hills and town of Solulta immediately north of Addis Ababa are also popular locations for high altitude training, and have some facilities for running camps. The small town of Bekoji in the southeastern highlands is well known as the birthplace of several elite runners.
  • It is thought that one reason why Ethiopia has produced so many top long-distance runners is due to the high altitudes at which most of the country is set. For the same reason, visiting runners from lower lying climes might well find themselves very out of breath when they head off on a morning jog in the likes of Lalibela, Addis Ababa or Gondar.