ADDIS ABABA, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- Ethiopian long-distance runner Hussein Kiros marked his personal milestone as he reached the finishing line of Africa's largest road race Great Ethiopian Run (GER) here on Sunday.
Speaking to Xinhua, Kiros, who has run all 18 editions of GER since the 10-km race was inaugurated in 2001, said that GER has a special place in his heart.
"I haven't missed a single date of GER, one time I avoided missing the run while abroad by returning from Dubai at night just hours before the race was about to start," said Kiros.
"I prepare at least one week before every edition of GER with 30 minutes of exercise every day to prepare my body for the run," said Kiros.
However, Kiros isn't restricting his love of athletics to himself, competing together with his four young kids in the last two GER races.
The Great Ethiopian Run has raised headlines this year not just for the 44,000 runners that participated in the athletics race, but for the fact that an Eritrean athlete, Zersenay Tadesse was a guest of honor at the athletics event. Another four Eritrean athletes also competed in the race for the first time.
Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a war from 1998-2000 that left an estimated 70,000 people dead on both sides. Despite a December 2000 peace deal ending the war the two countries remained in a state of armed standoff until June.
The continuing mutual hostility meant that all kinds of contacts between the two countries including sports related were banned.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who took office in April kicked off peace moves in June, agreeing to hand back disputed areas to Eritrea. Since then the two countries have moved rapidly to restore diplomatic ties, trade and phone links, resume flights and re-open their common borders.
Speaking to Xinhua, Tadesse said he is impressed by the crowd turnout for GER and believes future editions of GER will have even more participants with the reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
"I expect GER to further grow in the coming years, Eritrean athletes have participated for first time in GER, the athletics federation of the two countries have agreed to exchange training destinations and coaches to further the bilateral athletics partnership," Tadesse told Xinhua.
Tadesse, already an athletics icon in Eritrea having won bronze at the 10,000 meters race in 2004 Athens Summer Olympics, said he hopes to hold soon a copycat athletics tournament in Eritrea to deepen the reconciliation between the two countries.
"I truly feel happy when I see such kinds of mass races, I plan to follow GER's footsteps and hold a big athletics event in Eritrean capital Asmara with the participation of Ethiopian athletes," he said.
Since its inception, GER has not only become a celebrated athletics event in the east African region, but has also witnessed an increasing number of runners coming from across the world.
One such runner is Wang Xiaoyu who comes from Beijing. "It's my second time here, and this year I brought more friends from China to come and enjoy the run," Wang told Xinhua.
"We will continue to run next year, the year after next year and so on, because I have friends who come to Ethiopia to enjoy running here and in general experience the culture," she added.
Wang was one of the estimated 30 Chinese runners at GER, the largest foreign runners group to have run the race on Sunday.