A bit of research on the internet brought me to Bekoji, a small village in Arsi zone in Ethiopia and the birth place of Ayana and also of Dibaba her competitor during the race and many other great Ethiopian athletes. Bekoji, with just over 16.000 inhabitants, already produced 10 gold medals in international competitions. The documentary Town of Runners** point to one men: coach Sentayehu Eshetu. His lifelong commitment to his village and to running has paid off. The documentary shows the direct link between hardship (Arsi zone often hit during emergencies, appearing in many humanitarian appeals) resilience building and ultimate victory.
The region is also known as an important coffee growing area, a cash-crop that could provide for good income should seasonal rains follow their normal pattern. However, El Nino has also affected Arsi zone and more and more people had to diversify their livelihoods, with very few alternatives at hand. In that perspective the enormous drive for running of Bekoji can also be considered an important coping strategy to deal with hardship and impact of climate change. Running though an individual discipline gets a communal translation in the Ethiopian reality, which is also witnessed by the warm togetherness of the athletes after the race. It exemplifies to the world and to Ethiopia itself as well that sticking together is the best option in the face of hardship or competition over scarce resources, showing that a strong community is an important stepping stone in resilience building.
Today causes me to compare the Ethiopian athletes with my compatriots competing in a number of disciplines. The enormous support infrastructure available not necessarily translates in an equal amount of golden medals (though being a small country with just over 16 million people).