Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Memorable Runs: Entoto, Ethiopia

After Pine to Palm I was interviewed by a guy from the Ashland paper, and made a comment to him about being frequently misquoted or having things taken from my blog that appear elsewhere that make me look like a flake.  Example from Trail Runner Magazine on the Massanutten 100: "Toenails....I lost at least four....and it's the start of cute shoe season, damnit."  And whatever I said after the SOB 50K that this guy quoted wasn't much better.  So, when I saw his article on Pine to Palm where he made a comment that I would be traveling for work to Ethiopia and Kenya, and that running overseas is just too dangerous, I cringed a little.  I think I mentioned that in some places I travel to for work it is too dangerous to run on the streets, but Addis Ababa is certainly not one of those places, and it would be a huge stretch to say that "overseas" is dangerous.  Heck, my DC neighborhood was much more dangerous than most places I travel.  And while the streets of Addis are safe, with a population of around 3.4 million (2007) and cars that would never pass an Oregon emissions test, the air quality doesn't encourage one to run there after about 7 a.m.  So, I did end up doing some treadmill running, and only ventured onto the streets of Addis a handful of times (but not for security reasons).

However, I did get to experience a run up near Entoto, which sits up in the hills above Addis.  What is exciting about this?  Well, this is where many of the great Ethiopian runners train.  While I didn't see anyone famous (not that I would recognize them, although one of them lived in a huge house across the street from the hotel according to the guard), it was pretty incredible knowing that I was running on the same footpaths and dirt roads that get pounded regularly by the Ethiopian elites.  So, on 10-10-10 I enjoyed a lovely 10 mile run at 10,000 feet up around Entoto, and below are some photos of the scenery on the run.  It was a Sunday, and maybe a rest day for the greats, as someone in our group mentioned.  But on a weekday, those roads and trails are the training grounds of the best in the world.  There were killer views, and some really cute kids tending the herds.  And I was sucking air the entire way....

The meskel flower, which blooms around the time of a religious holiday by the same name (apparently, also known as tickseed sunflower in the eastern US, where it is considered a weed).

That's Addis down below.  You can see the smog hanging over the city.  It's pretty bad.

Donkeys (and women) carry eucalyptus down to Addis, where it is used as firewood.  The women carry huge bundles of sticks on their backs which are probably 3 meters long and weigh much more than the women do.  You see the women on the steep road down into Addis with these huge bundles.

The churches at Entoto.  Not part of the run, but close to where we started the run.  Many churches are octagonal in shape...I don't remember why.
To top off the day, I saw the movie "The Athlete," about the famous Ethiopian marathoner, Abebe Bikila (in Amharic with English subtitles).  Abebe won gold at the 1960 Olympic marathon in Athens (barefoot, apparently because the shoes his coach brought him were too small), and again in Tokyo in 1964; the first African to win gold.   It's an interesting movie and it was awesome to see it in the theater in Addis (where the entry cost $2, and popcorn and soda together were less than $1).  Many of the landscape scenes from the movie reminded me of the fields up around Entoto.  Definitely a movie worth checking out for you running geeks out there.