With 36 hours in the Ethiopian capital, I had booked myself into a hotel close to Meskel Square, the downtown gathering point for the city’s joggers. I steel myself for the walk.

By Oliver Balch (The Guardian) |

ADDIS ABABA The first thing I do on arriving in Addis Ababa is throw up. Right there on the airport asphalt, a grotesque, liquescent version of the papal terra firma kiss. A kind lady passes me some water. I accept it gratefully, and then return it involuntarily via the window of my taxi from the airport. At the hotel, there is no record of my booking, but I look so sickly that the receptionist quickly passes me a room key. She wants me gone before I scare her guests, I suspect. A fitful, feverish night lies ahead as my lunchtime salad completes its dirty work.

Not the best preparation for my introduction to Ethiopian running, for sure. Woken by my alarm at dawn, I don’t even contemplate reaching for my trainers. Head fuzzy, throat parched, it is as much as I can do to crawl out of bed and dress myself. I would not be beaten, however. With 36 hours in the Ethiopian capital, I had booked myself into a hotel close to Meskel Square, the downtown gathering point for the city’s joggers. I steel myself for the walk.

When I arrive, still pale and shaky, I’m struck that Meskel Square is not really a square at all. More of a crescent, really. Narrow, with the gentlest of curves, Addis Ababa’s best-known spot for running comprises a series of banked terraces, each measuring about one meter in width and about 600m in length. There are 40 or so in total, a low stone kerb demarcating one from the other. Picture a row of swimming pool lanes affixed to a sloping Nascar track, and you’ll be close to the mark.

Continue reading this story at The Guardian
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