but it was enjoyable. Since time is of the essence (I've got to be up in 6 hours) I'm going to just give some brief highlights and then open it up to questions.
In the AM for 4+ hours I was at the kids races held in conjunction with the Great Ethiopian Run. There is an Ethiopian Youth Sports Academy that sits on quite a few acres where the races were held. There is a national soccer stadium being built next to that. It was the largest area of greenspace I've seen in Addis since being here. When I arrived soccer teams were practicing, but the kids (a few thousand) were congregating with their parents for the races.
I haven't been to many kids races in the US, but this was exclusively for kids. You couldn't access the Youth Sports Academy without an entry to the race (obviously parents could accompany their kids). The kids and parents all congregated and all the kids were wearing their race shirts and many had their face painted. It seemed 100% like a kids race in the US, except the music was blaring over the loud speakers, very loud the entire time, and the kids were going nuts dancing and whatnot. It was very festive.
The races went off by age. Under 5 girls were first, then boys. The youngest ones ran probably less than 300 meters total. Only thing different than a race in the US I thought was they had a finishing tape for the winner. Besides that everyone got a medal. And the parenting was all over the place with some being hands off and some overprotective. Many of the parents of the youngest kids ran with their kids, other set them on their way. Some of the kids had their phone numbers inked on their race shirts so they'd be able to be found after.
The 8 year old kids ran maybe 800 meters and then the oldest kids I heard ran 1000+ meters. More so than the kids races I saw at the NYRR marathon, I felt the kids who took off first ran like their life depended on being first. Not all of them would hold onto the finish, but the concept of pacing didn't really seem to exist. But I find it hard to believe any of the next generation of Ethiopian distance talents will be growing up in Addis. It's not a place conducive to developing Olympic champions.
Stephen Kiprotich and Gebre Gebremariam started some of the races and they and Zersenay Tadesse were on hand to give out the winners awards (a glass looking trophy and backpack). There were way more kids at this event than events I've seen in the US.
(Kiprotich and Gebremariam- speaking of kids. Gebremariam's wife is Werknesh Kidane so I hope they have many kids as both parents are World XC champs)
The only other difference I noted with a race in the US was that there were adults linked by hands who would physically hold the kids back before the start of each race. I think maybe it's a cultural thing with crowding, but I was told if they didn't hold the kids back they'd overwhelm the start of each race. And at the start of the adult races tomorrow the military links arms to hold the crowd back and then when the gun goes off sprints out of the way ahead of the runners from what I've been told. The turns were pretty sharp for the youngest but otherwise it was kids being kids
After the races it was back to the hotel for a quick nap which turned into a 3 hour nap. As I was exiting the hotel to grab lunch I ran into Irish journalist Cathal Dennehy who had arrived and we grabbed a late lunch and talked about.... doping and anti-doping. That's what I talk about half the time at events like this.
Then it was go back to the hotel and turn around and go to the race pasta dinner which consisted mainly of foreigners who are running the race (I heard of groups from Ireland, UK, Nigeria, Norway and Hong Kong). The highlight was Haile Gebrselassie coming out and giving a few words and then posing for pictures. I think he's still the most popular distance runner on the planet.
Geb and the Nigerian group
Then I went back to the hotel and ventured out on my own to see if the sportsbar next door might have the Dallas Cowboys game on tomorrow. Got a beer and started talking to the bartender and then realized I was the only person left in the bar which is the nicest bar I've seen since being here (my hotel has a beer garden but its not as nice).
My personal bartender:
Went back to my hotel and ran into some Rastafarians at the restaurant who have moved from Trinidad to Ethiopia. They figured out I was American and were giving me some good natured grief for the American women's under 17 soccer team losing 3-0 to North Korea (The under 17 world cup is going on and this was on TV). Then we talked what it was like to be a foreigner of sorts in Ethiopia (they had been here close to 10 years I think) who don't really speak the language and whether the political reforms going on will last (they weren't sure, but were glad for the present).
I then ran into Merhawi Keflezighi who was back from Gebre Gebremariam's house. G2 (as I'm not calling him) was very friendly and had invited the Eritrean team over to his house after the pasta dinner and Merhawi went as well. Hawi and I talked about the races tomorrow (we aren't sure which Ethiopians are running but both think an Ethiopian will win) and Hawi's family moving to America and living the American dream and whether it's worth to go to college these days.
More tomorrow. Ask me anything about today.
More photos: Prizes:
Kiprotich at race:
Disclosure: The Great Ethiopian Run paid for my travel to Ethiopia and accommodation