The endurance of Ethiopian older people
On Sunday 25 November 2012, the Great Ethiopian Run was held in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. This 10 km fundraising race, themed "Running for a Child", brings together thousands of people from all over the world every year. Last year, HelpAge took with a team 150 older people and supporters.
This year, HelpAge participated with over 250 older people. These included Nesta Hatendi, HelpAge's Regional Director in east, west and central Africa, members of the Age Demands Action delegation, as well as older members and staff from more than 30 older people's associations and partner organisations.
The pre-race magic
On the morning of the race, the runners gathered at the starting point at Meskal Square. After putting on their runner numbers, the older men and women and their supporters, gathered in a circle and did some warm up exercises. The warm up was led by ADA delegate, Getachew Kiflu, 66, and turned into an energetic and colourful performance of traditional dance by the older participants!
The older people, in the midst of a crowd of an estimated 37,000 were then ready to run - to run for the child. This is fitting because it is estimated that Ethiopian older people, raise 50% of children in the country who are orphaned or vulnerable.
As the start signal was given, some of the older people charged forward with the rest of the crowd whilst others preferred to stay at the back and take it slowly. But all had a common motivation, to prove that older people can. They were, are and always will be active and contributing members of society.
Crossing the finish line
One hour and 40 minutes into the race, older people started crossing the finish line in a crowd of green t-shirts.
One of these older people was Ayele Bashaw, 69, a long-term staff member of HelpAge in Ethiopia, wearing the number 001. "It was wonderful being part of this huge event once again. I improved my time by 15 minutes, finishing at 1 hour 42 minutes. I look forward to next year," he said
Another older runner on HelpAge's team was Abera Tessema, a staff member of the Bole Sub-City Older People Association. Coming in briefly after Ayele, he said: "HelpAge gave us the opportunity and motivation to participate. And here I am having completed the race. Thank you HelpAge."
Like Abera, Tesfaye Bilecha 63, was excited to participate. Tesfaye is HIV positive and has been exercising for a long time to keep up his health which came in handy at the race. "Here is my medal. I have finished the race fair and square," he said.
And yes, there were older women too, including the Support A Grandparent spokesperson, Bayush Woldearegay, who is 64 and from Eneredada Elder People Association. It was the first time Bayush participated and it took her a little over two hours to complete the race. "I did it," she said. "It was tiring, but I did it."
There were many other older men and women who successfully completed the race, received their yellow-ribboned medals and proudly went on home to share their accomplishments with their loved ones.
I wonder how many older people the Great Run will bring together for children in 2013.
Find out more about our work in Ethiopia to support older people.