Ruth, 8, tags along as Great Ethiopian Run goes virtual

·1-min read

By Kumerra Gumechu

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - In a suburb of Addis Ababa, 10-year-old Kiya Daniel and her little sister Ruth were eagerly anticipating one of the biggest events on Africa's annual sporting calendar.

But when the coronavirus put paid to the Great Ethiopian Run, they overcame their disappointment by signing up for the virtual event that replaced it - and ended up winning prizes.

"I like running, but we’re not allowed to run because of the coronavirus. We're not allowed to touch people, get closer to them," Kiya told Reuters TV.

The 10-kilometer (six mile) race usually attracts up to 45,000 runners from around the world.

This year, organisers created an online club instead, limiting membership to 500 people who would undertake to run five kilometers over the course of a week.

The whole of Kiya's family joined in, including eight-year-old Ruth, which led to a surprise visit on Sunday morning from Great Ethiopian Run director Ermias Ayele.

"This family is special because they have the youngest participant," he said as he handed out medals and prizes.

Ermias was hoping that 60,000 would attend this year's race, which had been scheduled for November. "Normally we organise the biggest (running) event in Africa," he said.

Kiya's family may be running alone, but the online camaraderie has made them feel part of a wider sporting community - something Ermias hopes may endure after the pandemic ends.

"This (virtual racing) could be the new normal in the future so we wanted to do something, (even though) we started small."

(editing by John Stonestreet)

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