Ethiopia Running የኢትዮጵያ ሩጫ
The Art and the Tradition of Ethiopian Runners
Abebe Bikila 1960, 64& Feyisa Lilesa 2016
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Film screening to benefit Ethiopian towns - Houston Chronicle
Hawii is one of the young people featured in "Town of Runners," a new documentary about the rural Ethiopian village of Bekoji, whose runners have won 8 Olympic Gold medals, 32 World Championships and broken 10 world records in the last 20 years. Hawii hopes to be as successful as her sister, who runs in the United States. Photo: Courtesy Of Dogwoof / HC
For the past six years, Houstonians have watched promising Ethiopian runners fly through the city in pursuit of greatness.
Ethiopians have won the women's division of theChevron Houston Marathon since 2007. They've also been first in the men's race for five of the past six years. Three of them - Dire Tune, Deriba Merga and Teyba Erkesso - went on to win the Boston Marathon months after triumphing here.
And just as many elite Kenyan runners come from the same area - the Rift Valley - so do Ethiopian runners - in their case, the country's southern highlands.
One village in particular stands out. In the past 20 years, runners from the rural town of Bekoji - population 16,000 - have won eight Olympic gold medals and 32 world championships. They have also broken 10 world records.
"Town of Runners," a new British documentary, travels to Bikoji to follow the journey of three up-and-comers who hope running is their path to a better life. The movie will be presented Aug. 7 in a screening to benefit Ethiopia Reads, a nonprofit group that promotes literacy. The event will include conversations via Skype with director Jerry Rothwell and Adam McDowell, who ran in the men's Olympic marathon trial in January.
Young residents of Bikoji, particularly girls, have few opportunities beyond subsistence agriculture. But under the guidance of a local former gym teacher, Sentayehu Eshetu, some have escaped rural poverty. Among them is Derartu Tulu, who became the first African woman to win an Olympic gold medal in 1996.
Still, the path is not easy. Rothwell followed his subjects for three years, documenting their successes - and failures.
Their stories would resonate with anyone, but with runners in particular, the event's organizer says.
"It is an opportunity to think about how one becomes a runner and why. It gives us an opportunity to reflect on and maybe challenge how we train," said Jay Stailey, a Houston runner and Ethiopia Reads volunteer.
Stailey, a retired school principal and part-time storyteller, became involved with Ethiopia Reads during a month-long trip to the country last year with children's book author Jane Kurtz.
After Stailey returned, he saw a flyer promoting Ethiopia Reads in a local Starbucks, where manager Angela Lara was trying to raise $10,000 for a library in Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia, a coffee-producing area. So they teamed up.
Stailey said a silent auction in November brought in about $5,000. He raised another $1,400 on his own by collecting pledges for a half marathon in Washington, D.C., earlier this year. He calculates that if the film sells out, they'll surpass their goal and be able to start funding a library in Bikoji as well.
"Runners should come to this film, because by coming together, we are reminded of our membership in this local running community, as well as our membership in a much-larger global running community," Stailey said.