By Mark Jenkin, The Reporter
Richard-NerurkarAddis Ababa,Ethiopia – As more than 35,000 runners sprinted towards the finish line at Jan Meda Race Course last Sunday, some may have noticed an Englishman offering words of encouragement over the final few meters.
Since the Great Ethiopian Run was established 14 years ago, Richard Nerurkar has not known what it is like to race competitively over the bustling streets of Addis Ababa. Yet the former Great Britain international is the man responsible for establishing the biggest road race in Africa.
It is thanks to his vision, persistence and organizational skills that ‘The Land of Runners’ has its own thriving mass-participation event.
Sunday’s bumper field demonstrates how far it has come since Nerurkar, with the support of Haile Gebresalassie, first put on the race in 2001.
For nine years, the two-time Olympian lived in Ethiopia with his family, working as general manager for GER. Although he returned to England in 2010 to work with the Brighton Marathon, Nerurkar, 50, still returns regularly to Addis to advise the team he established.
“When we moved here, there was no Great Ethiopian Run,” he said.
“I wasn’t a race organizer so I was learning on the job and in many ways I’m still learning.
“There was nothing happening, so in that sense it was easy because no one was there to correct us. However, it’s generally hard doing new things and being a pioneer in Ethiopia.”