Great Ethiopian Run, in footsteps of Haile Gebrselassie

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Addis Ababa, 3 December 2013 (WIC) - It's a crazy, joyous race at 2,300m above sea level in Addis Ababa, and it's the adrenaline as well as the altitude that leaves competitors breathless after the Great Ethiopian Run.

More than 38,000 runners hit the streets of Addis Ababa for the Great Ethiopian Run, Africa's biggest race.

I am standing at the start line of the Great Ethiopian Run: not only the biggest race in Africa but one of the continent's biggest talent-spotting contests. Officially there are 38,000 of us, all in yellow-and-green race T-shirts, jostling and shoving and staring down a line of police with batons.

But hundreds of others have sneaked into line, with home-brewed kit, swelling the numbers still further. A marshal warns me, "Don't try to get in front when they start – you'll be trampled!", then there's the blast of a horn, a rising crackle of noise, and the police cordon sprints for safety. Ahead of me two men lose their shoes in the tumult – and don't return – and I wonder: what the hell have I let myself in for?

For others, however, this 10km race around the hills of Addis Ababa, at an altitude of 2,300 metres, offers the chance to follow in the footsteps of the great Ethiopian runners: AbebeBikila, who won the 1960 Olympic marathon in Rome running barefoot; the revered Haile Gebrselassie, 10,000m gold medallist at the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics; and the current 5km and 10km world record holder Kenenisa Bekele.

Previous winners in the race's 13-year history have gone on to win major marathons and Olympic medals. The race – which is shown live on Ethiopian TV – is not just a showcase for runners, but for the country, too. (theguardian.com)

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