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LRC Exclusive: American High-Schooler Nebiyu Osman Visits Ethiopia's Running Across Borders Training Camp

By Nebiyu Osman
September 23, 2009 (Written July, 2009)

Running Across Borders Visit  

During my visit to the training camp Running Across Borders, I kept a journal of my experiences with the camp, training, and just some cool things that I did related to running. I did a number of other things while there but this just kind of gives one an idea of what my experience was like in terms of training.  

Enjoy, and make sure you visit Ethiopia in the future, it was an awesome experience which went by much too quickly for me.

Entry #1


Kenenisa Bekele?!?! 

After going through some difficulties with contacting RAB (The Internet in Addis is soooo slow) I finally got Coach Melaku’s phone number. We made plans to meet in the afternoon to start putting together my training program for the next couple of weeks. While waiting to meet him at Piassa (one of the most popular shopping areas in town), I decided to scour the area to look for some official Team Ethiopia track gear. This was a bit frustrating because all of the shops at the stadium were selling less than top quality merchandise for unfair prices and because my bargaining skills were… sub par. Since I wasn’t really getting anywhere with finding the track gear my Mom suggested that I ask coach Melaku if he knew a good place to shop. We called him up and he was quick to warn us not to buy anything yet because he knew a good store where we could get what we wanted for a good price, plus he said that camp members got a discount! While we waited for Melaku in Piassa, I didn’t know what to expect. Questions like “Is he really qualified? What kind of experience does he have? Is he a national team coach? What kind of athletes has he coached? What is his training philosophy?” all plagued my mind as I waited to meet my new coach. Then, before I could wonder anymore I spotted a tall lean man wearing an IAAF t-shirt approaching our car.  It was Melaku.

After talking with him briefly I was very pleased. His calm and pensive demeanor was very comforting to me which was important, as I was planning to trust a stranger to train me in something which I was passionate about. He ended up spending the rest of the afternoon with us, patiently answering all of our questions and helping me figure out my program for the next couple of weeks. As we were heading to the running store and I talked to him about Bekele and some other Ethiopian track stars, he dropped a bombshell “Yes, Kenenisa is very talented, he is one of my Athletes.” I was completely dumbfounded; I was seriously about to be coached by the man behind Bekele’s success! Currently Melaku is working with the Ethiopian Marathon Athletes that will compete at the World Championships in Berlin, including names like Deriba Merga. I think it is safe to say that Melaku had me SOLD. He was the real deal and still was very down to earth. He took us out to eat and then took us to the camp to give us a tour. I just couldn’t believe that it was so easy to get a hold of someone of his stature; America may be called the land of opportunity, but when it comes to distance running, Ethiopia comes second to none. Just two days before, I literally walked into the National Stadium from the street, to train with the World Championship Team practice, free of charge, no questions asked and in the process met Kenenisa Bekele, the greatest distance runner of all time! This kind of thing is nearly impossible anywhere else.  

## End Entry #1

Check back tomorrow on the LetsRun.com homepage for the next installment of Nebiyu's Addis adventure titled "8000 feet".

About Nebiyu Osman
Nebiyu, 17, attends Mercersburg Academy in Mercersburg, PA where he trains as a distance runner. During his freshman year his dorm faculty resident learned he was of half-Kenyan, half-Ethiopian descent, and took an interest in him as a runner. This faculty member happened to be current LetsRun.com Employee #1 Emory Mort, who at the time was coaching winter and spring track at the school. After two dabbling years in track, Nebiyu (a soccer fan first and runner second) eventually found his true calling in running and switched to cross-country in 2008. In the summer of 2009 Nebiyu traveled with his parents to Ethiopia and was determined to find a training group to continue his preparations for his 2009 senior cross country season in the US.

A testament to his determination and optimism, Nebiyu found the Running Across Borders training group... and the rest was history. Luckily, it is now recorded history, as Neb wrote a series of journal entries to document the visit.

Because we found his journals and stories so inspiring, we at LetsRun.com will present you our readers with every journal entry from "Neb" as he experienced two weeks' training in Addis meeting the world's best runners and getting a taste for the high-altitude, soft surface, early morning, rugby-playing, fast-flying, barefoot running Ethiopian running scene.

Nebiyu left Ethiopia determined to help some of the people he met. He wants to spread the word about Running Across Borders. Learn more about this non-profit organization at runningacrossborders.org. We think the best page on the site is the "training camp" page. The organization, co-founded and co-directed by Garrett Ash and Malcolm Anderson, is particularly intriguing because it gives foreigners of any age the chance to travel to Ethiopia and train like Nebiyu did. You too can go train with the group, and the small boarding costs you pay help support the group. If you can't visit but want to donate, visit the site and help support the organization.

To watch Neb's first attempt at making a video that chronicles his travels, click here.

If you want to contact Nebiyu, email us at letsrun@letsrun.com and we'll help you get ahold of him.


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