The Great Ethiopian Run is a riot of color and energy and is the perfect place for a destination run if you’re planning one

By Mark Douglas |

So it turns out at least one team in black and white is flying the flag for the North East.

One of the region’s biggest and best running clubs – Tyne Bridge Harriers – are the winners of this year’s Great Club Challenge, which earns them the right to have a crack at the Great Ethiopian Run. Believe me, it’s the running equivalent of uncovering Willy Wonka’s Golden ticket.

I was lucky enough to be a guest of Nova International at the run last year, speaking to Haile Gebrselassie about what developing Africa’s biggest mass participation run meant to his country. The answer? Everything to a country that is still trying to shake perceptions it as a basket case.

In truth it feels like anything but when you’re over there. Supposedly Ethiopia is creating more millionaires faster than any other country in the world and there’s definitely a feeling that it is preparing to take off. If they’re anything like me, the good people at Tyne Bridge Harriers best prepare for getting a couple of hours sleep a night. The adrenaline that courses through your veins for most of the trip won’t allow you much more than that.

And what of the run itself?

Under azure blue African skies, the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa is a riot of noise and excitement for this, one of the biggest weeks of the year. The Sunday run – a 10k where there are no numbers, no timing chips, an indistinct start and the middle of the route is lined by friendly locals who yell encouragement from behind their beer bottles – should be on every runner’s wishlist of venues.

Let’s put it this way, though: it’s not a PB course. You might have felt that when you came down the hill towards the beach at the end of the Great North Run you knew about pain but running at altitude is the oddest sensation. I went having secured two straight 10k PBs in successive weeks but I was lucky to manage 10-minute miles at that altitude.

In truth, you may as well not pack your running watch either. The locals amble along and unless you’re right at the start you walk a fair chunk of the course. But still, the mile or so you do manage is quite incredible. You’re treading the footsteps of some of the sport’s best ever athletes. If that doesn’t give the Harriers an added incentive, then nothing will.

If you’re planning on a destination run, Addis Ababa might well be the holy grail. Get in there while it’s still one of running’s best kept secrets.

Source: Chronicle Live
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