In January 2021, the Great Ethiopian Run celebrated its 20th anniversary and held a 10km run in the country’s capital, Addis Ababa, to celebrate. 12,500 people participated, including 200 elite athletes. An astounding four million people followed the race! Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions were made on the number of participants with just over 9000 people finishing the race. COVID-19 protocols were followed diligently during the race; masks were handed out, hand sanitisers were available and there were temperature check points. The race had three departure points with 15-minute intervals for participants wearing green, yellow and red t-shirts – colors of the Ethiopian flag.
The Egyptian Vulture New LIFE project was one of the sponsors of the Great Ethiopian Race under the Mile for the Egyptian Vulture campaign, supported by Ethiopia Wildlife and Natural History Society (EWNHS), and BirdLife Africa. A few days before the event, major stakeholders in energy infrastructure and wildlife conservation (EEU, EEP and EWCA and EWNHS), signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together on bird safe energy infrastructure.
Flagging off the race Mrs Adanech Abiebe, Mayoress of Addis Ababa said, “Age, gender or nationality are not a barrier to be part of this colorful run and that it has become the beauty of the city”.
All the participants wore T-shirts with the message “Bird-safe Energy Infrastructure”, supporting the EWNHS campaign to save hundreds of vultures and other raptors that die every year from collision with power transmission lines and electrocution from dangerous pylons all over Ethiopia, and across the world.
Additionally, the “Egyptian Vulture Team” participated in the race, and raised awareness on bird safe energy infrastructure through engaging in conversations with various participants of the race, and showcasing the Bird-safe Energy Infrastructure banner throughout the race.
The Great Ethiopian Race isn’t just a race, it’s often referred to as Ethiopia’s biggest street party, even winning the “Best International Running Event”! At the run, different stations including the Egyptian Vulture New LIFE project station were colorfully decorated with banners and flags, in addition to music and professional dancers who kept the participants entertained. Abe Gashaw (28:19 finishing time) and Tsige Gebreselama (32:32 finishing time) were crowned champions for the male and female elite athletes category. Following the success of the 2021 edition of the Great Ethiopian Race, and the awareness-raising component on bird conservation, the Great Ethiopian Race organisers will now incorporate bird conservation theme into their upcoming events, monthly 5 km runs, with each km named after a bird.
1st km – Liben Lark: preserve your effort – we need to preserve these birds as they are Critically Endangered endemic birds.
2nd km – Falcon: fly fast downhill like a falcon
3rd km – Ostrich: go steady on the flat
4th km – Eagle: gather your strength for the steep hills
5th km – Vulture: swoop downhill to clean up at the finish and not leave any garbage behind
The first run took place on on the 6th of March this year, and had over 200 runners taking part. Through these efforts, it is hoped that more awareness will be raised, to ramp up bird conservation across the country.
The Great Ethiopian Race is also a way to give back to communities. This year two local NGOs were recognised for their relentless effort to help women and children (Omo Child Foundation and Tikuret lesetoch Ena Lehitsanat). The Great Ethiopian Race together with its senior sponsors gave 400,000 birr to support their cause and ensure the continuity of community engagement.