Sunday, January 10, 2010

Gara Dima 30K: flat and dusty!

As I mentioned in my previous post (Running in Addis Ababa: Meskel Square), we did not go to Ethiopia for the running but for the humanitarian mission led by Alex. However, in addition to running in the capital, I was able to do two long runs while we were in the remote countryside in the East part of Ethiopia. Our hotel was in a truck stop, Metehara, on the road between Djibouti and Addis, a very busy and noisy place. The village we worked in is called Gara Dima, although not the one you would find in Google Maps. This one is too small and recent, corresponding more to a refugee camp and composed of people who fled war, drought and starvation in the North of the country a few years ago.

Gara Dima is 30 kilometers South of Metehara. The road between the two places is made of dirt and is very dusty and bumpy. Our commute on the bus varied from 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 40 minutes which was tiring for all especially in temperatures around 100F. Twice last week I was able to run back to the hotel from Gara Dima after our work at the village. Although running is Ethiopia's specialty, soccer is more popular and the people along the road was surprised to see a runner, moreover Caucasian. A few of them accompanied me for a few miles on their bikes and encouraged me. It took me 2 hours 26 minutes the first time and 2:20 the second. The air was very dry and temperatures quite high (90-100F), not exactly the conditions you would expect in winter to resume training (I did not run between Quad Dipsea at the end of November and my second days in Ethiopia, that is for a 4-week break).
On this satellite view you can see how dry the area is except for Lake Basaka near Metehara, the governmental sugar factory (the main patch of green corresponding to fields of sugar cane) and a fruit farm at the bottom of the view, near Gara Dima. Irrigation comes from the Awash river and that's all the water Gara Dima gets to grow plants and crops, wash or drink. A muddy water full of all bacterias and germs you can find in Africa...

Here is a series of pictures taken by Agnès from the bus as I was passing the sugar plant (which is also currently building an ethanol plant aiming at producing 50,000 liters of ethanol per day).
Who knows, this may become an official 30K race some day and draw tourists to the area (which is not the case today, even with the nearby Awash National Park).

After these two runs to conclude 2009, I got sick pretty bad and diagnosed with Typhoid by a tropical clinic in Metehara. Thankfully, the antibiotics (injected through IV) did their work and I was back to Gara Dima last Sunday for the official inauguration with the Ethiopian Minister of Health. What another overall experience, with the joy of combining some running with it!


Anonymous said...

Très interessée par ces deux récits, photos et cartes

Anonymous said...

Moi aussi !

Alexander Vero said...

Hi Jean,

Was just browsing the web when I came across your blog. To my amazement I did a double take of the photos and realized that it was Mengsitu standing with you. If you do get to catch up with him again please send him my best wishes. He's got a lot of talent but for one reason or another (explained in the documentary) he did not quite run the 61 minute marathon that he might have been able to. It would be great to hear from you - my e-mail address is

Good luck with your trip to Ethiopia - I loved the place.

Best wishes

Alex Vero

Pierre Haren said...

Typhoid??? Please be more careful, Jean.