The Great Ethiopian Run
Since the year 2000, November has become a special month for Ethiopians around the world. Why? Because of the Great Ethiopian Run.
This yearly race brings together thousands of people from Ethiopia and abroad for the same purpose: running for a cause.
On Sunday, 27 November 2011 the Ethiopian Great Run was held for the 11th time in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa (which means new flower). 36,000 people from Ethiopia and all over the world participated in the 10km race.
Representing older people
This year for the first time, HelpAge International was represented in the race. Our group consisted of 140 people, including older people from different older people's associations, Age Demands Actions (ADA) delegates, reporters dedicated to our "age helps" message, as well as HelpAge and partner staff. Our HelpAge branded caps and placards reading "Age demands Action", in both the local and English language, made us stand out from the crowd.
Before the race started, the participants gathered in Meskal Square. The square, which is usually filled with traffic and noise, was instead taken over by cheering crowds dressed in the official red shirts of the race.
Our older people formed a circle and warmed up for the race together. Then at 9.00am the race started. As we passed the starting line, the older people held their placards high, attracting the media and public's attention.
"When you give to older people, they give back"
The older people energetically marched together, some with the support of their canes. Throughout the race, people continually noticed not just the group of older people but also their message: "When you give to older people, they give back".
The fact that so many of the older people completed the race defied a lot of people's expectations.
For example, take HelpAge's long-time watchman Ayele Bashaw who is now 68 years old. Ayele finished the race in just under two hours. Ayele got a medal with a yellow ribbon, which means he came in between the 24,001 and 36,000 finishing positions.
Unfortunately, the organisers had not considered the fact that older people would finish the race. This meant that some of the older members of our group did not receive their medals as the medals were simply thrown into the crowd of finishers.
Our Age Demands Action delegation decided to find out why this was the case. They will meet with the management of the organisers this week, not only to find out why the participating older people did not receive their well-deserved trophies but also to make sure they will in future races.
If the appointment with the organiser is successful, HelpAge International will have even more than its 20th anniversary in Ethiopia to celebrate next year. Hopefully, more older people will participate in the 12th Great Ethiopian Run and rightfully recieve their medals!