A group of runners whose participation in Africa’s largest road race was cancelled at the weekend amid heightened security concerns responded by organising their own event.
The 20-strong group had been scheduled to compete in the annual Great Ethiopia Run in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, but following international warnings that the event was a potential target for terrorist attack, they took to the countryside for a quickly organized alternative, and completed their promised 10k sponsored run to support the work of Self Help Africa.
The competitors bussed their way out of the city with other fun-runners and staged their own event in the uplands of Hawassa in Ethiopia’s rural south, where Self Help Africa has been working with communities for close to 30 years.
A number of Ethiopian runners joined them in the event, and while competition was fierce amongst participants, the Irish were no match for the locals, whose performances underlined the depth of running talent in a country that produces some of the greatest middle and long distance runners in the world.
The group, each of whom raised in excess of £2,500 to take part in the event, have spent the following days visiting Self Help Africa’s projects, which are focused primarily on increasing agricultural production, developing farmers operatives, and supporting women-led enterprise development and micro-finance in rural Ethiopia.
They were led on their trip to Ethiopia by Self Help Africa’s well-known West of Ireland fundraiser and one-time Operation Transformation contestant Ronan Scully. “There was just such a phenomenal spirit in this group of Irish people,” said Ronan. “They were determined not to let a security warning get in the way of what they had set out to do, which was to raise funds for our work with poor communities by completing a 10k run in Africa. In the end, and despite the obstacles, they achieved it, and many poor families across Africa will be better off in 2014 as a result.”