He used to work at Ethiopian Airlines as a maintenance program engineer when the 4th installment of the Great Ethiopian Run was held 14 years ago. Back then, the management team was looking for a committed volunteer and Ermias Ayele pursued the opportunity as a volunteer marketing manager for the Great Ethiopian Run (GER). In 2005, the prominent Ethiopian athlete, Haile Gebreselassie was heading to the United Kingdom (UK) to take part in the Great Manchester 10 Kilometer Road Race where Ermias accompanied him. During which time, Ermias had the chance to meet with international event organizers and experts in the field helping him to create contacts and learn the basics of event organizing and management. Afterwards, he acquired his second degree in Sports and Leisure management from Leeds Metropolitan University. Returning back home from England in 2010, he became the General Manager of the GER and has held the position since then. The 18th edition of the GER will be held on Sunday November, 18, 2018. Dawit Tolesa of The Reporter sat with Ermias to discuss the upcoming event and other projects. Excerpts:
Thee Reporter: The 18th edition that the Great Ethiopian Run (GER) is scheduled to be held in a couple of weeks. How is the preparation work so far?
Ermias Ayele: We call this year’s Great Ethiopian Run, “Total Great Run 2018”. International road runs have their own name and as a result “Total” has been GER’s partner for the last three years and they have now renewed their contract with us. We are expecting 44,000 participants in this year’s race. The AU summit and this year’s great run unfortunately take place on the same date; therefore, we have decided to make our starting and ending point at Sidist Kilo for convenience and security purposes. Regarding the number of participants, we have not increased the number of participants from last year. It remains to be 44,000. Hence, we have refrained from registering more than 10,000 people.
There is an increasing interest among people and desire to take part in the GER every year. How are you accommodating this?
We have been trying to accommodate the increasing curiosity of participants. One way is defining or splitting green and red waves. It will be tough to let everyone go at the same time. This year, 7000 participants who are believed to finish the 10 kilometer race below one hour will wear green and go first while the other 37,000 will proceed afterwards. The world largest road run is held in the Atlanta, Georgia named Peachtree where 57,000 participants take part every year. It has around 30 to 40 waves to manage the 10 kilometer race. But here we only have two waves. We want to eventually learn from their experience and implement it here.
Besides the participation of sport loving residents; the great run is also a good platform for many young emerging athletes. It also involves international athletes. What should we expect this year?
Of course, it is a great platform for many emerging athletes. It has been an entertaining and stiff competition now and then. This year, there will be around 300 men and 200 women athletes representing regional clubs, city administrations and those who are individual participants. Previously, we have had many participants from Kenya but this year, we will have a number of athletes from Eritrea and Uganda planning to take part in the race.
Due to the African Union Heads of State and Government Summit; the GER was advised to change the date by the Ethiopian government. After negotiations, you managed to change the route not the date. How did that happen?
Among the interesting things about the GER is that it is consistent in its dates for 18 years. That is the result of strong teamwork and the involvement of prominent athletes. These qualities led us to be a member of AIMS. Then, after negotiations, we managed to change the routes not the date. Changing the date would create a lot of inconveniences including hotel costs and logistic matters since many international, tourists and continental athletes are coming. The great run is not only a race but also a tool for image building of the country. There has been no change in dates for the last 17 years in a row. So the easiest way would be changing the route of the race from Meskel Square to Sidist Kilo and we finally agreed on that.
How did you become a member of Association of International Marathon and Distance Races (AIMS)? Tell us about that?
The GER has been a member of the Association since 2005. The Association has a calendar list. It promotes upcoming members’ races and major events. The Great Ethiopian Run and the Hawassa Half Marathon are members of the Association. They also hold international meetings every year. There was a bid for the meeting to be held in Ethiopia last year, but unfortunately, there was a race in Greek so they took it there.
What will be the “new experience” of this year’s Great Ethiopian Run?
The great run brings new experiences every year. We have brought in quality t-shirts from abroad that can absorb sweat easily. We have not used full color t-shirts before but this year we are going to use white t-shirts with green strips. We have also started Great Run member’s registration. Part of this year’s activities also involve preparation and pre-orientation and training activities for participants because over the years, we have observed people with heart and other health related risks getting into trouble. There will be medical professionals from Red Cross Association every 500 meters ready to extend professional assistance. We have also facilitated three bath places.