It is interesting to know that Bekoji, a small town of farmers and herders in Ethiopian highlands has consistently yielded many of the world’s best distance runners.
Haile Gebresellassie, Kenenisa Bekele, and Dibaba sisters were born in Bekoji. The athletes attended the same primary school, Bekoji Elementary School, trained with the same coach, a Mr. Eshetu who worked until recently as a Physical Education instructor in the school.
Bekoji is located 170 miles (280Km) south of the capital Addis Ababa. According to Ethiopian Goverment census report, Bekoji has a population of 33,000.
The Unique features of Bekoji
1) Thin Air
The town sits on the flank of Volcano nealry 10,000 ft (3,000m) above seal level, making daily life itself a kind of high altitude training.
With such a small population (33,000) there is a big chance this people must be all be related one way or another. If they have a common origin, its fair to argue they carry a running gene.
Children in this region often start training at an early age, covering great distance to fetch water and firewood or to reach the nearest school. Haile Gebresellassie has always recounted how he used to run 10Km to and from school everyday carrying his books, leaving him with an exraordinary stamina.
5) Rich Neighbours
Ethiopian runners are some of the wealthiest people in Ethiopia. In a country of 80 million people, the majority live hand to mouth, and distance running offers the younger generation one of the few ways out.
Dibaba has built a two story mansion in the village, the only other is Bekeles’. Motivated by such signs of success, thousands of kids have picked up running.