As the Hash is a drinking group with a running problem, we get informed about various running events going on around town. This morning was the first of three 7K races through Addis sponsored by Coca-Cola. It’s a cool idea for getting people out and exercising: you run the same course once a month for three months, you have a timing chip for an official time, and the goal is to improve over the course of the three months. Obviously, there are the serious Ethiopian runners, and their goal is to win, but everyone gets an achievable and personal goal, and one that will hopefully encourage them to exercise more than previously in between the runs. Sadly, I am not here for the other 2, so I will never know if I’ll improve, and I won’t get my medal.
I thought we would be walking, since Berhanu has a bad leg. Well, I ended up with a fabulous Hasher named Charlotte, a nutritionist aide worker based in Malawi but here in Addis for 6 months, and we did about half walking (uphill) and half running (downhill). I’m pretty sure Charlotte’s daughter Ellen is about my age, but that didn’t stop her from totally kicking my ass and making me go faster than I would otherwise have gone. I obviously jinxed myself in the last post, since the day after I wrote it, I woke up with a sore throat that developed into a nasty cold. I blame Mike, who also had a cold last week. Had I known we were going to run, I’d probably have gone back to bed. Anyway, I am incredibly proud of my official time of 66:20 for 7K with said cold, at 8200ft, and with photo stops. We also ran past Charlotte’s office so popped in so I could have a peak. So, clearly take off 5 minutes for the photo stops, 6 minutes for the head cold, and 5 minutes for being well above the altitude at which I was born. Then, it only took me 2x as long as the female champ.
After the race, the awards ceremony was presided over by none other than the man, the myth, the legend of Ethiopian running: Haile Gebreselassie (black warmups holding mic. The other two are also professional runners, and if I understood correctly, one won the Boston Marathon this year?). This man is the Michael Jordan of Ethiopia, and is truly and justifiably a national hero because 1) he has chosen to stay in Ethiopia rather than move to the US or Europe as many have, and 2) he has invested a ton of money in the Ethiopian economy – he owns apartment buildings, hotels, businesses, etc.
Charlotte and I ran into a white guy who had been on stage during the ceremony as we were leaving, and we didn’t know why he was onstage so asked him. He said he was the CEO of Coca-Cola (I’m guessing for Africa), and so Charlotte started giving him a hard time about a soda company sponsoring healthy living events. He took it well, we invited him to Hash, and he might even show up (not holding my breath, though). I had been horrified that Coke was the only choice at the beverage stops, which forced me to pop over to a roadside kiosk to buy a small water, also adding a minute to our time…
So, two more activities checked off the Ethiopia life list: participate in the national sport (running) and see up close and personal the most famous athlete. Maybe I will be ready to return Stateside in just over two weeks. Although I very much doubt it! But, I am looking forward to pants that stay up without some serious belt action. Is it that it’s been months since they’ve seen the shrinking power of the dryer, or because the GI problems and change in diet (for the better? – no processed food, although far more carbs) have caught up with me. I am also very much looking forward to a proper towel!