Since the 90’s, Teshome Bekele has been involved in athletics and has thought in various schools in Addis Ababa. In 1990, he began his career in athletics as a referee and was among the few to help the then Mobile Athletics Championship organizers. While serving as an expert in the annual championships organized by the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF), he had the opportunity to be trained as the only expert who can measure distance races alongside the refereeing.
In 2006, Teshome received training for course measurement from the African Athletics Confederation (AAC). Upon completion of the training, he became the first Ethiopian eligible to measure local road races. Currently, he was able to measure several domestic road races, including the Great Run. Dawit Tolesa of The Reporter caught up with Teshome to discuss issues regarding road races. EXCERPTS:
The Reporter: Do you remember the then Mobile athletics competition?
Teshome Bekele: Mobile was a well-known company at the time that sponsored the Federation and held various competitions. It was an opportunity for many athletes. Though I had trained in soccer and basketball, I had been involved in athletics since the 1990 Mobil Athletics Championships.
How did you get the opportunity to train for the distance measuring course?
The Confederation extended an invitation to the EAF. The invitation was extended to one of the referees officiating at Ethiopian Athletics and stated that he must be able to ride a bicycle and be able to do math. Luckily, I was able to get the training because I was working as a mathematics teacher in addition to being a sports teacher. The profession required mathematical skills.
In 2006, I studied the Association of International Marathon and Distance Races (AIMS) measurement course and I also received a C grade.
How was the training?
The basic requirement of the training is to ride a bicycle and be able to do mathematics. There were trainees from various African countries who will be given a bicycle upon arrival at the airport. The ones who cannot ride a bicycle are expelled from there immediately. There were 19 trainees from several African countries who participated in the training.
The training is to measure and calculate the distance and keep track of the distance. For example, the first measurement is 0-400 meters, 400 meters –0, again 400–400 meters and 400 meters –0 on a metal meter. This will be re-measured with a rolling pin and then calculated to find the correct or approximate mile. Each distance we measured during training, will be reported and evaluated. In 2009, I took a B grade training that improved my career.
Road races in Ethiopia and across the world are becoming more common, especially in Ethiopia. What makes one road race different from another?
Currently, there are many road races in different parts of the country. Most of the distances were measured by cars and motorbikes. However, the World Athletics (WA) only accepts those properly measured by experts measured by a bicycle to get the exact km.
The calculation is mainly based on marathon, half marathon, and 10 kilometers. The athletes know every inch of the distance and they can calculate every second, while they are running. Therefore, it must be accurately and professionally measured without errors.
What was the previous practice? How did you provide professional support for the Great Run in Ethiopia?
Well, I remember when races were measured by cars. I followed the same step before I got the lesson. I was known in Ethiopia only as a referee and they did not know that I had another career beyond refereeing. I worked as a road measuring professional with the EAF and the Addis Ababa Athletics Federation.
The Great Run brought in an expert from England and I got the chance to share the experience with the professional, while he measured the GER. On one occasion, the day of the Great Ethiopian Run and the New Delhi Marathon in India was scheduled on the same day.
So, following the expert’s trip to Delhi, the Great Run was unable to find a road measuring expert. Then after, this professional recommended I measure the course. After that, we worked together with the former Great Race Manager, Erimias Ayele, without worrying if the expert came or not.
It is known that there are only a handful of professionals in the profession. How do you describe the profession?
Most people don’t understand that the work is a hard work. Adequate preparation is needed to measure the distance before a race begins. It is simply not possible to measure ten miles within an hour. All measurements are completed at night. When races have been held in various parts of the world, the distances require to be re-evaluated. So, it needs a thorough preparation.
You can measure different races in this profession. Can you mention some of the places comfortable for the races?
I have taken part in many competitions locally. I have been very active, especially in the competitions organized by the EAF. Hawassa, Bahir Dar, and Bishoftu are the most convenient cities. Hawassa, in particular, has become almost indigenous, and due to this reason, many competitions take place there.
So, I consider the three cities as the best places for athletes and professionals to compete.
What is the point of having this much competition and how do you evaluate them?
It is good to have many road races in every town. However, organizing athletic races is not easy. You can’t manage road races within days. You have to be ready months ahead. For instance, the Great Ethiopian Run’s preparation commences six months before its date. The preparation includes selling the ticket to participants, T-shirt distribution, measuring courses, and evaluating the venue.
Athletics requires a lot of expense and coordination. The GER is a well-organized and is an exemplary road race in the country. It is important not only to organize races but also to prepare well for each occasion.