Interviews with Accelerate Ethiopia
On March 2nd over 150 runners will compete in Ethiopia’s first ever trail race– a half marathon in the country’s northern mountain highlands. The race is a culmination of a week of shared contribution to the eye health and educational strength of Ethiopia with Himalayan Cataract Project and imagine1day. In the days leading up to the race I will be bringing you profiles of Accelerate Ethiopia–runners (including local superstars, up and coming pros, and our international team of runners who have made Accelerate Ethiopia possible), educators, doctors, and change makers.
Coach Alem is the Accelerate Ethiopia Race Director. Alem grew up in northern Tigray– not far from the site of the March 2nd race. He was a member of the Ethiopian National Team in the early 90’s and competed in the marathon, for 5 years. These days Alem lives in New York City and works for the New York Road Runners. We spoke this mornign before a training run…
MB: What do you love about running?
AK: “That’s my life.” He laughs. “That’s the easiest question– it’s what I love.”
MB: What do you love about Ethiopia?
AK: “The culture–the people. The respect for other people. Ethiopians are generous.” Alem smiles raises his eyebrows. “Now it’s time to run.”
Tom got involved with Accelerate Ethiopia in September. Back then we asked him to tell us about himself and why he chose to participate in Accelerate Ethiopia. When we asked for three words to describe himself he gave us: Humorous, Creative, Determined. And then he added that saying you have a sense of humor may automatically disqualify the fact that you possibly do.
MB: What excites you most about this trip?
TD: For me, the experience of traveling and learning together, supporting important local work on education and sight, and engaging with legendary and local runners in historic, emerging Ethiopia will be extraordinary. In addition, being able to form new relationships and contribute to a meaningful experience so that we who are fortunate to be involved in Accelerate Ethiopia can extend our experience into ongoing meaningful action individually and collectively after March 3rd.
MB: Why Accelerate Ethiopia? Why right now?
TD: Accelerate Ethiopia offers an exciting chance for me to combine my professional and personal interests in a meaningful way. My work involves supporting international NGOs, many of whom have programs in Ethiopia, so I appreciate the incredible efforts that imagine1day and the Himalayan Cataract Project are leading for education and healthcare in local communities. As a marathoner, I’ve also seen how races and running events can call attention to needs and mobilize for important causes by creating an inclusive platform where all can participate, regardless of ability. Accelerate Ethiopia’s integration of trip and training, invitation and participation, support and learning represents a unique opportunity for those of us involved to better see – and help others see – the opportunities for Ethiopia differently. Lastly, the three themes of educating leaders, restoring sight and racing for the future are a personal call to action in Ethiopia and beyond. These themes resonate with me at several levels, beginning with meeting the important beneficiary goals in Ethiopia. But in addition to this immediate impact, it suggests other opportunities: how do we educate all leaders to see future possibilities in Ethiopia and elsewhere? How do we restore sight dimmed both physically but also by a weary cynicism or a lack of imagination? How do we all make it easy for others to participate and create the sense of urgency to race to a future that is a leap beyond what we see today?