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    |BEKOJI RUNNING PROJECT|The Bekoji Running Project is a collaborative effort by Running Across Borders, the Town of Runners, the Bekoji Youth and Sports Administration, and Girls Gotta Run Foundation to expand the economic opportunities of youth in Bekoji through running. Bekoji is a small farming town in the Ethiopian Highlands with an astonishing record of developing long distance runners. Under the direction of Coach Sentayehu, Bekoji has produced some of the world’s greatest distance runners, including Olympic medalists Tirunesh Dibaba, Kenenisa Bekele and Deratu Tulu. Some 250 local young people attend Coach Sentayehu’s dawn training sessions every morning in Bekoji. The Bekoji Running Project provides training and funding for three assistant coaches for Coach Sentayehu and supports the athletic growth of ten young athletes. The Girls Gotta Run Foundation is supporting six female athletes (one of whom is featured in the film “Town of Runners”) and the training and funding of Bekoji’s first-ever female coach.

    Bekoji’s first female coach: Coach Fatiya is a 24-year-old runner from a nearby town, Shirka. Her family trades goods at a small shop they own in her town. Fatia started running 8 years ago and likes to run the 400 meter and 21 KM races. She has been training to become a professional marathon runner, but is also interested in becoming a coach because she wants to assist other female athletes in reaching their goals in running. She has already begun working informally with Coach Sentayehu over the past four months to develop her coaching skills. Each morning she wakes up at 5am to conduct her own marathon training and then works with the 250 young athletes that come to train with Coach Sentayehu. As a young runner herself, she already knows many of the girls who come to train and is able to identify with their struggles and successes. Fatiya looks up to runners like Meseret Defar and is excited to be a mentor for young female runners in Bekoji 

    Fatia says she started running because, “I wanted to run and change my life.” Today, she is developing her coaching skills under the direction of the legendary Coach Sentayehu. Here’s what Fatia has to say about having the opportunity to be a coach in Bekoji:

     “I have always wanted to be a coach since I started running. I want to help develop the best athletes. I feel good about being a female coach. There are no girl coaches in Bekoji so that makes me feel special.”

    Six female runners: GGRF is supporting the athletic development of six promising female athletes in Bekoji by providing funds for their living expenses and for travel to important domestic and international races. This support enables the athletes to remain in Bekoji while developing their careers at the highest level through strong coaching and the athletic management of Running Across Borders.The athletes will be able to live at home with their families,continue their education and continue to contribute to the local community. The athletes being supported by GGRF are:

    Magurtu Bekele Urga

    Meet Magurtu! She is a spunky 18 year old with a passion for running and making people laugh. She is from Ch’afa, Bekoji, Ethiopia.  Here are Magurtu’s thoughts on running, why she likes being part of this project and what it means to be a girl in Bekoji:

    “I first started running 8 years ago because I would see runners in my town and in the news and they inspired me to try to be like them. I am so happy to join this running project. Previously, there were no projects like this that supported girl runners and provided gear to runners.  Being part of this project inspires me to work hard and have good results in my running.  Thank you for your support.” 

    “Being a girl makes me happy because if I am working hard, I can achieve whatever I like. My dreams are to become a successful runner, make my country proud, and help my family. When I’m 20 years old, I will be happy if I am doing my athletic training well, having good running times and competing outside Ethiopia. When I’m 30 years old, I want to work very hard, find success in running, have my own house and car, help my family and make my running coach happy. I also don’t want to have children. I want to support my parents and siblings instead.”

    “My favorite thing about being a girl is the opportunity I get in being a girl. The hardest thing about being a girl is a lot of the problems that occur when girls are travelling from the countryside to a bigger city. Also the harassment in school. What I want the world to know about girls is that I can work hard and be known in the world.”

    Rahima Danboba Dubisoo

    Meet Rahima! Rahima is 18 years old and from Lemudema, Bekoji, Ethiopia. She is shy with a beautiful smile and heart of gold. Rahima is always looking for ways to become a better runner and likes to weave baskets and make handicrafts in her free time.  She grew up in a family of farmers roughly 3KM outside of Bekoji.  Here are Rahima’s thoughts on running, why she likes being part of this project and what it means to be a girl in Bekoji:

    “I started running when I saw how talented runners were in Bekoji. I thought that maybe I could be as talented as they were. Before I became part of the Bekoji Project, I didn’t have running shoes or any supplies to support my athletics. Now I have the support to eat as I like and run in proper gear. It makes me strong. Thank you for helping us. I love you.”

    “Being a girl is not good because when you are working in the countryside or country, people are harassing you. For example, when training in the forest, we have to run with men for safety.  My dreams are to achieve a big goal by running in international races and to help my family and country. When I’m 20 years old, I want to compete outside Ethiopia and have a competitive running time. When I’m 30 years old, I want to be famous and successful runner. I hope my coach and country will be known because of me. “

    “My favorite thing about being a girl is girls can get opportunities in running and education. Ethiopian laws have given girls first priority in education and running.  The hardest thing about being a girl is girls cannot train in the deepest forest because of the dangers or violence, kidnapping and harassment. What I want the world to know about girls is that I am working very hard and I can be successful.”

    Zenash Garedew Senbeta

    Meet Zenash! Zenash is an 18 year old from Lemudema, Bekoji, Ethiopia. She is an up-and-coming star in the 10K and half marathon.  Zenash comes from a farming family in Lemudema, Bekoji, Ethiopia, roughly 3KM away from Bekoji.  She always has a smile on her face and is working hard to achieve her goals. Here are Zenash’s thoughts on running, why she likes being part of this project and what it means to be a girl in Bekoji:

    “I first started running 5 years ago because I wanted to be an international athlete like the famous Ethiopian women runners I heard about in the news. I am happy to join this running project.  Being part of the project makes me strong and makes me want to work harder than before. I am happy that you are helping my teammates and me. Thank you.”

    “Being a girl makes me happy because if I am working hard, I can achieve whatever I like. My dreams are to become a famous and successful athlete.  When I’m 20 years old, I want to reduce my running time to be a more competitive athlete.  When I’m 30 years old, I want to replace one of the famous athletes who are running right now. I want to become a role model like they are. I hope to have a fast running time and be able to support my family and myself. “

    “My favorite thing about being a girl is the good opportunities available through affirmative action in education and running in Ethiopia. The hardest thing about being a girl is when girls come from the countryside to a bigger town by themselves. Sometimes men hide in the forest and kidnap girls to force them into marriage.  What I want the world to know about girls is that I can work hard and achieve my goal of becoming a famous athlete.”

    Recent Races:

    Hawassa Half Marathon - In May 2013, Zenash placed 22nd in the Hawassa Half Marathon. The Hawassa Half Marathon is a major race in Ethiopia with more than 7,000 participants and roughly 100 runners from overseas. The race takes place in Hawassa, situated 170 miles south of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, at an altitude of 5,577 feet.

    Oromiya Zone 10,000m - In April 2013, Zenash placed 5th.

    Ambo Half Marathon - In April 2013, Zenash placed 34th.

    Arsi Zone Championship 10,000m - In Febuary 2013, Zenash placed 3rd with a time of 38:29:64.

    Misira Hussien Dubisu

    Meet Misira! She’s an 18 year old runner from Lemudema, Bekoji, Ethiopia. She comes from a family of farmers who live roughly 3KM from Bekoji. Misira has a contagiously hilarious personality and is always making unique and goofy contributions to the team dynamic. Here are Misira’s thoughts on running, why she likes being part of this project and what it means to be a girl in Bekoji: 

    “I started running 5 years ago. I ran in school and won competitions so I decided to pursue competitive running. I am happy to join this running project. Previously we didn’t have any running gear. The support is really helpful to me. It makes me want to work hard. I want to thank you and the people that are supporting us. I hope they will support us into the future. Thank you.”

    “Being a girl is good and sometimes bad because girls get the first chance in races and education. There are opportunities for girls. But the bad part is that we are weak and there are many places that we have to worry about men attacking us or raping us.  We have problems in the house and have hard work to do. In our community, the girls do not have the power to decide, the family decides.  My dreams are to become a famous athlete like Tirunesh Dibaba and then come back to Bekoji to help my family and country.  When I’m 20 years old, I will compete outside Ethiopia and have a competitive running time.  When I’m 30 years old, I want to be among the famous Ethiopian athletes and help my coach. I want to have enough money to build a business. I want to build a business in Bekoji that my family can work in. “

    “My favorite thing about being a girl is that girls have more opportunities than boys. The hardest thing about being a girl is that girls cannot go everywhere the boys can go. They can’t go deep into the forest near our village. What I want the world to know about girls is that I am working very hard right now.”

    Gaddise Gemmachu

    Meet Gaddise! She’s 19 years old and from Etaya, a small town roughly 80KM from Bekoji, Ethiopia. Her dad and mom live in Entaya where they are farmers. She is one of 9 siblings, 8 brothers and 1 sister. Here are Gaddise’s thoughts on running, why she likes being part of this project and what it means to be a girl in Bekoji:

    “I began running when I was in school. I wanted to be the next Tirunesh so I could represent my country and change my life. My favorite races are the 10,000 Meters and Half Marathon. In the future, I hope to represent Ethiopia as a professional runner and improve the life of my family.”

    Being a girl in Bekoji is good because I get the chance to focus on my training. In Bekoji, the girls and boys are the same and equal. It is difficult to be a girl in Ethiopia though. In rural areas, the families don’t take a chance on girls. Girls are only alowed to do domestic work.”

    “I appreciate GGRF for taking a chance on me. Thank you.”

    Tsigereda Besu

    Meet Tsigereda (Rose in English). Tsigereda is 18 years old and from Bekoji, Ethiopia. Tsigereda is quick witted and naturally takes a leadership role in any group she’s in. She lives at home with her single mom who owns a small shop where she sells goods in Bekoji. Tsigereda is the youngest of 16 siblings, 9 sisters and 7 brothers.  Here are Tsigereda’s thoughts on running, why she likes being part of this project and what it means to be a girl in Bekoji:

    “ I started running in 2009 because I wanted to change my life. I saw an opportunity in running and started to train.  In the future, I want to train hard and be able to support my family. My favorite races are the 10,000 Meters and the Half Marathon.”

    Being a girl in Bekoji is good but also difficult. My favorite thing about being a girl in Bekoji is that we are able to train in running outside the home. The most difficult thing is the domestic work we have to do at home.

    “I really appreciate the support of GGRF because no one supports girls in Bekoji. Thank you very much.”