By Henok Reta |

And nowadays the country has been engaged in various activities to spearhead the development of the sector. Multidimensional activities are underway to realize the vision of the nation aspiring to be among the top five tourist destinations in Africa by 2020. As tourist flow is increasing every year by over 10 percent the government and stakeholders are enhancing the protection and conservation of tourist attractions and expanding the tourism infrastructure. And one of the new frontiers is sport-tourism, writes Henok Reta.

For Mohamed Temam, winner of the first ever trail race in Ethiopia, it might appear to be hardly a victory. He has seen many athletes winning track races to receive big prizes and become popular on the world stages. Yes, he might never win that glory unless he succeeds in the trail races globally. Some day, he will indeed be remembered for the history he had made as Ethiopian athletes claim the same status as their peers in track and street races; something  that is being well witnessed in some African athletes such as Martin Toroitich of Uganda. And, he will also feel pride as someone realizes a dream of winning a trail race on world stages having been inspired by him. Indeed, there is a long way to go and the steps taken so far proves the country could become a land of trail racers after some time. “Why shouldn’t it be? I have always been convinced that we could have athletes participating in mountain races,” Gebreigzabiher Gebremariam, world-known professional athlete and co-founder of Ethio-Trail, says.

Coca Cola sponsored running race, October 2014 (Photo: Great Ethiopian Run)

Coca Cola sponsored running race, October 2014 (Photo: Great Ethiopian Run)

Perhaps because of its tough challenges, trail racing may be a scary spot to try out. Even when one finishes the race successfully, it is alway a tiresome exercise. Nevertheless, the adventure side appears to cancel out the fears. Why not? it is just a breathtaking experience. The breath of fresh air and the pile of dust blowing out of one’s feet as it stamps on the rocky terrain are all part of riveting experience. Imagine the piercing sun hammering your head. And the steep hills weaken the already groggy legs. After all, that is the excitement awaiting you along with a friendly chit-chat and fun with fellow adventure lovers. Since it is in Ethiopia, one is also in for warm hospitality and lasting impressions when coming into contact with the local community.

It has been a few years since Ethio-Trail was introduced into Ethiopia with the aim of promoting tourism, social contributions and the sport itself. Having lived in Spain for many years, Kalaeb Getaneh, one of the founders of Ethio-Trail, came up with the whole idea of starting trail racing in Ethiopia. He had the idea of teaming up with an Ethiopian partner to get the event rolling; and the right person to form the partnership with was Gebreigzabiher, one of the country’s prominent long-distance runners. “Honestly speaking, I would never have thought of the idea had I not lived in Europe where trail running is common,” Kalaeb says. He co-founded the Race In Africa (RIA) in Spain a few years ago so that he realized his own version of RIA-Ethiopia Tour and Travel business in his home country. Now, the RIA has become a familiar acronym among the international communities residing in the Ethiopia and for the local community alike.

Hosting its first ever trail race in the surrounding of the Abijata-Shalla lakes, the trail was formally introduced to the country a few years ago. “As far as we’ve been told, there has never been such a trail race before except the one that starts in Meskel Square and ends at the Entoto hills,” Kalaeb says. Registering some 250 people, of which the majorities were members of the international community residing in Ethiopia, the first trail race was a complete success. “We say we were successful in terms of creating awareness and hitting the major target that was awakening the local community to protect natural resource around the lakes,” he says. The Aijata-Shalla lakes National Park is located in the country’s Central Rift Valley (CRV) system, 200 km south of Addis Ababa, of which the 887 square kilometers—more than half—is water.

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