I had the the opportunity to join the Vivibarefoot/Soul of Africa team in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in November 2015. Soul of Africa is an incredible social enteprise. More information can be viewed on www.soulofafrica.com. The purpose of the visit was threefold – to get to know the Vivobarefoot team (Lucy Stewart and Jack Cannon); to visit the non profit organisations that Vivobarefoot/Clarks/Soul of Africa support in Addis and to participate in the 10km Great Ethopian Run (GER).
The team that started the GER in 2001 included Haile Gebrselassie. The aim of the run is to create an opportunity for showcasing the best of Ethiopia's vast up-and-coming running talent. Apart from the elite racing aspect of the race, it has also become a huge event with literally thousands of “fun run” participants. 10 000 participants took place in the inaugural run in 2001. By 2010 there were 35 000 participants. On the 22nd of November 2015 there were between 38 000 and 40 000 participants.
This is not an event for a PB. In fact, due to the huge number of participants it is more a walk than a run. The relatively high altitude of 2 300m also ensures a slower than expected time. To try to race this event would be to miss the point. Each km is indicated by different bands/DJ stands instead of the usual km markers. This requires stopping to dance and enjoy the vibe and chat to other runners. The race is about the carnival atmosphere, the smiling faces and being part of a celebration of the love and talent that Ethiopians have for running.
Meeting up with the Brave Hearts and Destino teams at the end of the run was a perfect end to the event – it is about community and we really did feel part of the Addis community even if we had only been there for 36 hours!
We spent the afternoon of the race visiting the Selamta Family Project. This is another hugely inspirational organisation. More information can be viewed on www.selamtafamilyproject.org. We spent the afternoon at one of the family homes chatting to the children, watching TV (including the race highlights) and drinking the most incredible freshly roasted coffee.
It was a great opportunity to experience Addis with the Brave Hearts, Destino and Selamta communities but also to connect with Lucy and Jack – 48 hours like that can truly cement friendships!
I was privileged to spend a lot of time exploring wilderness areas in southern Africa from a very young age. I got my first camera when I was 6 years old and I have been passionate about wildlife and landscape photography ever since.