Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The trails keeping Ethiopia's distance runners in sprint condition

Apparently there are hyenas in this forest. I'm running behind Tadele Geremew Mulugeta, an Ethiopian marathon runner, zigzagging back and forth on tiny narrow trails, leaping over rocks, ducking under overhanging branches. It's not like running in Kenya.

I've come to Ethiopia to learn something about Kenya's greatest (nay, only) distance-running rivals. In Ethiopia, all the athletes come to live in the north of Addis Ababa, where forested mountains rise up above the city to an altitude of over 3,000m.

Unlike in Kenya, where the athletes live in training camps, the Ethiopian runners live scattered around the chaotic, rubble-strewn neighbourhoods, mostly in modest, rented accommodation. But early every morning, the hills are alive with the sound of pattering feet as hundreds of runners criss-cross the pathways, snaking their way up and down the steep slopes.