Saturday, 1 November 2014

Altitude Training Options: Ethiopia

Ethiopia is less well known as an altitude training destination than neighbouring Kenya, but the opening of excellent training facilities like Yaya Village and the success of the 2012 film Town of Runners have done much to increase the country’s appeal.  Indeed, Ethiopia’s tourism potential across the board is considerably underdeveloped, and many are surprised to learn of the country’s beauty, cultural diversity, and friendlessness, and that Ethiopia has nine UNESCO world heritage sites!

Sululta, a small town just 11 kilometres north of Addis Ababa, is where many of the athletes who live in the capital carry out their daily training sessions.  It is also home to Yaya Village, a purpose-built training resort which has attracted athletes from across the world since it opened in 2011.  The eucalyptus forests, dirt roads, and grass clearings make for varied running terrain, and the recent opening of a synthetic track, owned by multiple Olympic Champion and world record holder Kenenisa Bekele, is a significant addition for those with a need for speed. 

Those who want to get to the real heart grass roots Ethiopian distance running can visit Bekoji, aka Town of Runners, a small town south west of Addis Ababa.  The town has produced athletes who, between them, have won 10 Olympic gold medals, broken more than a dozen world records, and won more than 30 world championship titles.  Derartu Tulu, Kenenisa and Tariku Bekele, and Ejegayehu, Tirunesh and Genzebe Dibaba.  Visitors to the town have the opportunity to watch the next generation of world-beaters train, and to meet the coach who guided the aforementioned stars in their earlier years.

The Great Ethiopian Run is the largest road race in Africa, and each year it attracts hundreds of overseas participants wishing to test themselves against the altitude, the heat, and more than 10,000 other runners and joggers.

Blogs from my 2010 visit include: Ethiopia by Picture, Farewell Africa...For Now,  This is Ethiopia, Can I be a 'Funrunner' for a Day?, The Carb Queen is Dead and Gone,  and Addis, while during my 2014 visit I blogged about meeting Haile Gebreselaise, wrote about my trip to Bekoji, and summarised my trip in a photo blog. Shane Benzie from Running Reborn wrote a guest piece about training in Bekoji for us in July, 2014.

Additional photos can be viewed here (2014 visit) and here (2010 visit).

More information on altitude training in Ethiopia, and details  of how to arrange a trip there can be found in Notes from Higher Grounds: an Altitude Training Guide for Endurance Athletes.