Saturday, October 28, 2006

The People's Marathon

If you are an outdoors enthusiast, it does not get any better than October! The crisp fall air and the breathtaking hue displayed across the landscape in this season are truly refreshing. It is the best time of the year to go out and enjoy a run and take in the scenery nature offers.

For the marathon enthusiasts, the fall season is in full swing with some impressive performances already in the books. Both Ethiopian men and women national records have been broken within the past month by Haile Gebrselassie in Berlin and Berhane Adere in Chicago, respectively. The marathon excitement is sure to continue every weekend, at least through November.

In particular, this year’s edition of the New York City marathon is a race to watch as the legendary cyclist Lance Armstrong makes his much anticipated attempt at marathon running. Another celebrity scheduled to run in the New York race is the Olympic Champion Gymnist Shannon Miller. New York has also assembled an incredible line up of elite runners to go after the title of the most famous foot race in the world.

While New York City Marathon is still one week away, the next major marathon on the calendar is Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. This marathon is nick named “Marathon of the Monuments” (runners will pass many prominent monuments along the way) and is also affectionately known as “The People’s Marathon”. The 31st annual run will take place tomorrow October 29th.

In a stark contrast to the “who’s who” line up anticipated in New York next week, Marine Corps Marathon does not host any elite runners, and does not offer cash to the winners, but rather caters to “The People” (with notable exceptions such as Oprah Winfrey and Al Gore) who run for the sake of running and not to make a living.

Along the same line, while many of the world’s other major marathons showcase the talented Ethiopian elite runners, “The People’s Marathon” will showcase a group of regular Ethiopians who run for the sake of running and not to make a living. In fact, this year’s edition of Marine Corps Marathon is perhaps poised to set the “record” for the most number of non-elite Ethiopian runners ever assembled in any marathon race in history.

To be exact, there are at least seven regular Ethiopians registered to run the Marine Corps Marathon this coming Sunday: Anchinlema, Bete, Dereje, Tequame, Mamo, Fikru, and myself. In May 2006, we all agreed to register for the marathon and began training for it. Anchinlema, Dereje, Tequame, Mamo, and I had completed one or more marathons in the past (check here for more on my previous marathon) while Bete and Fikru were planning to make their first attempt at the distance. Several of us got together for a half-marathon in mid-July but aligning our schedule to be able to train together proved an impossibility.

All of us have our different reasons for running, but one thing is for certain: it is not to earn money. In fact, some of the group members are coming from out of state to do this marathon and thus have incurred considerable cost on airfare and hotel expenses, in addition to the registration fee of $94. One member of the team, Anchinlema, is even raising funds by dedicating her run for a very noble cause of funding research to cure Autism.

So, my dear friends Anchinlema, Bete, Dereje, Tequame, Mamo, and Fikru: I salute your courage in dedicating yourself to train for, and attempt to run, a marathon. You are doing it not for any gain but for the satisfaction of pushing yourself to the limit both physically and mentally. I especially salute you, Anchinlema, for going above and beyond in your effort to bring a cure for children suffering from Autism, one of whom is my own beloved son Addis.

All of us have encountered our own ups and downs amidst training due to injuries, illness, accident, and hectic summer schedules. The marathon day has now arrived. Some of us may set personal records while others may not get to the finish line. One thing is certain, however; I know for a fact that all of us will be at the starting line when the gun goes off, ready to give “The People’s Marathon” nothing less than our best.

As John Bingham would say, “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Weekend Report- Oct. 21-22, 2006

Awesome Alpharetta 1/2 Marathon
Alpharetta, Georgia, USA
October 22, 2006

5th Birhanu Zeleke 1:08:48

3rd Hirut Mandefro 1:25:41

Star Kid 8K
Fairfax, Virginia, USA
October 22, 2006

1st Gurmessa Kumsa 25:13

1st Alemgena Desta 27:26

Chicago Marathon
Chicago, Illinois, USA
October 22, 2006

9th Dejene Berhanu 2:12:27

1st Berhane Adere 2:20:42 (Ethiopian National Record)

Berhane Adere wins Chicago Marathon

Berhane Adere, 33, just won the 2006 Chicago Marathon in 2:20:42 and in the process set a new Ethiopian Record for women marathon. Berhane, who is a mother of an 11 year old boy, ran a very strong race and sprinted away in the last half mile to cross the finish line first. She appeared completely spent as she bent over to the ground and appeared to be vomiting. She was taken away by wheelchair shortly after crossing the finish line.

This was Berhane's second marathon. She also set an Ethiopian marathon record on her first attempt at the marathon distance. She has just reclaimed the marathon record by bettering the time ran by Gete Wami in Berlin this past September. Considering the weather in Chicago was a bit harsh with strong winds, Berhane's time was incredible and would have definitely been sub 2:20 in better conditions.

Congratulations to Berhane Adere on a marvelous win and a new Ethiopian record!!

Friday, October 20, 2006

It's A Long Shot, But It's Worth A Try

On this day 38 years ago, October 20, 1968, Ethiopian running legend Mamo Wolde won the Olympic Marathon in Mexico City, giving Ethiopia an unprecedented third consecutive victory in the Olympic Marathon. This was the pinnacle of Mamo Wolde's career, and perhaps his entire life.

It's A Long Shot, But It's Worth A Try

These were not the words of Mamo Wolde, or even his coach's. Rather, they wre uttered by Joel Button, to himself, after reading the January 2004 edition of "Runner's World" magazine.

What powerful words they were!

At the time, Mr. Button was serving as the Principal of Cono Christian School in Iowa. The "Runner's World" article he had just read was on Mamo Wolde and the ordeal Mamo found himself in after the Derg regime in Ethiopia was overthrown in 1991.

The story, beautifully written by Kenny Moore, who himself took part in the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Marathon, included mention of Mamo Wolde's children along with a heart tugging picture, depicting the somber future they faced without a father. After reading this moving story, Mr. Button decided to act and immediately began an effort to bring Mamo's children to the U.S., where they could have a better propspect in life.

Despite the seemingly long shot of this ever reaching fruition, Mr. Button pursued all possible avenues, including contacting Ethiopian alumni of Cono Christian School and parents of current students. I, as an Ethiopian alumnus of Cono, also received a call from Mr. Button, though I did not provide any assistance, or even encouragement, to Mr. Button, which I now deeply regret.

Ultimately, and after much effort, Mr. Button was successful in bringing Mamo's two children, Addisalem and Tabor, to the U.S. in October 2004. It appears now that Addisalem and Tabor have adjusted well to their new life in the U.S.

Mr. Button has now moved on from Cono Christian School and is pursuing other challenges. However, he has already paved a way for Addisalem and Tabor to be successful in life. In doing so, he has perhaps done more to preserve the legacy of Mamo Wolde than most Ethiopians have.

As we remember the events of this day 38 years ago, it is also fitting to recall one additioanal thing. Mamo Wolde went on to compete in the 1972 Olympic Marathon in Munich, Germany where he finished third and won the bronze medal AT THE AGE OF FORTY!

This in itself was such "a long shot" but Mamo must have believed "it was worth a try" on behalf of Ethiopia, just as Mr. Button believed, decades later, "it was worth a try" on behalf of Mamo.

"Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible."
M. C. Escher

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Mesgana Dancers and Meseret Defar

What a great year Meseret Defar is having in 2006! She has been in absolute top form, winning many races and even setting the 5000M World Record, not to mention the sizzling duel she has been on with Tirunesh Dibaba in European races throughout the summer.

However, even with all this grand achievement on the track, her most significant and enduring work performed this year may well be what she has been doing off the track, and completely unrelated to the sport of running. Meseret has been serving as an honorary director of the Mesgana Dancers, a group of ten Ethiopian girls, ages ranging from 7 to 12. They are part of close to 700 Ethiopian girls whose education is sponsored by a Utah based organization named Children of Ethiopia Education Fund (COEEF).

The Mesgana Dancers were on tour in the United States this past August and September, with performances in Utah, Nevada, California, and Washington, D.C. Their tour has received coverage on national media outlets including ABC and MSNBC. The purpose of the tour was to raise awareness about the importance of girls' education in Ethiopia and the work COEEF is doing in that regard.

Meseret, having been impressed with the effort and dedication of COEEF, agreed to join the Mesgana Dancers in Utah during their tour. This meant taking time out of her busy summer racing schedule, and bypassing some highly profitable race appearances, to spend time with the young Ethiopian girls in Utah. Meseret even paid for the costumes the girls needed for their performances. She states the reason for her involvement being the need for Ethiopians to do their share when non-Ethiopians are doing so much to help our own children.

Together with other sponsors such as Ethiopian Airlines, Meseret was instrumental in making the Mesgana Dancers' USA tour a success. As a direct result of Meseret lending her celebrity status to support the efforts of COEEF, many Ethiopian young girls will be able to receive quality education that they otherwise would not have had.

Such noble work will have positive impact on many Ethiopians for generations to come, which is worth much more than even a World Record run on the track.

Bravo Meseret for showing the way!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Weekend Report- Oct. 14-15, 2006

United Technologies Greater Hartford Marathon
Hartford, Connecticut, USA
October 15, 2006

3rd Zintu Meaza 2:28:56

New Delhi Half-Marathon
New Delhi, India
October 15, 2006

2nd Erkesso Teriba 1:11:02

ING Amsterdam Marathon
Amsterdam, Holland
October 15, 2006


9th Samuel Woldeamanuel 2:13:19

3rd Leila Aman 2:29:32

5th Ayelech Worku 2:31:11
7th Gishu Mindaye 2:33:07
9th Martha Markos 2:40:33

Baltimore Marathon
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
October 14, 2006

1st Yirefu Birhanu 2:16:26
9th Demese Tefera 2:20:07

Baltimore Half-Marathon
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
October 14, 2006

2nd Worku Beyi 1:03:51

An Ethiopian marathon runner has been put on quarantine at the Yellow Fever Hospital (YFH), at Delhi airport, after he failed to produce the mandatory yellow fever vaccination certificate. More...

Human Race- Ted Jaleta

Runner's World Magazine has a regular column titled Human Race. When you need an inspiration to go out for a run, or even to keep going when the going gets tough in life, you need not look any further than the Human Race.

Well, if there was ever an Ethiopian edition of Runner's World, then Ted Jaleta's story would definitely be one of the first ones to be featured. He has already been inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame. He has great quotes such as "I've run for pleasure and I've run for my life". A book by Deana Driver, Never Give Up: Ted Jaleta's Inspiring Story, will be released Oct. 26. You can read more about Ted Jaleta by clicking here.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Victory in Baltimore

An Ethiopian runner has won the Baltimore Marathon in Baltimore, Maryland, USA this morning. This is the first ever victory by an Ethiopian runner in the Baltimore Marathon. Details will follow later in the day...

1st: Yirefu Birhanu 2:16:26
9th: Demese Tefera 2:20:07

20 year old Yirefu Birhanu (DOB 1/1/1986) was the winner of today's Baltimore Marathon. His finish time was 2hrs 16 min and 26 sec. He finished the race with a 29 second margin ahead of the second place finisher.

Winning a major city marathon at such a young age is a magnificient achievment. What is even more astonishing is that Baltimore Marathon was Yirefu's first ever marathon and he won on his first try at the distance. Clearly, Yirefu is a very talented young runner with great promise for the future. Congratulations to Yirefu on his great victory!
Here is a link to coverage from The Baltimore Sun.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Your Vote WILL Count!

Here is your chance to vote, and it WILL count. Now, get out the vote and let's win one for those who have won many for us.