One Week in Bekoji, Ethiopia: A Photo Gallery

A photo gallery from Bekoji, Ethiopia, an elite Ethiopian runner hub.

By on February 28, 2019 | Comments

JaybirdIn January, iRunFar Managing Editor Meghan Hicks traveled to Bekoji, Ethiopia, a hub of Ethiopian elite running, to observe and participate in the Girls Gotta Run Foundation program there, including the inaugural Bekoji 100 Mile Relay. Girls Gotta Run is a U.S. nonprofit that awards scholarships to girls and young women in Bekoji to give them elevated access to education, health care, organized run coaching, life-skills development, and more.

In the Bekoji 100 Mile Relay, 48 people–a combination of Girls Gotta Run team members and adults from numerous countries–worked together to cover 100 miles by each running five-kilometer segments over the course of one day. The goals of the relay were many, including to provide a running adventure for the Girls Gotta Run team members and to fundraise for the nonprofit. Meghan collected these images with the goal of sharing what Bekoji and the relay looked and felt like.

We also published an in-depth narrative about the relay, as well as four short dispatches from on the ground in Bekoji.

Thanks to Jaybird for sponsoring this project!

The Girls Gotta Run team practices on the dirt track at the Bekoji stadium. Here they warm up before a 3 x 1,200-meter workout. All photos: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

Fatia Abdi is the Girls Gotta Run coach, and the only female coach in Bekoji. At practice on this cold morning, Fatia bundles into her scarf.

Cars, wooden wagons called ‘garis’ in Amharic that are pulled by horses, bicycles, mini-taxis called ‘bajajs,’ and walking: pretty much every mode of travel is used in the Bekoji region.

Bekoji is a medium-sized town surrounded by farmlands, and its twice-a-week market day brings thousands to sell and shop.

High noon on the high-altitude East African plain as seen from a bus seat.

Angela Heydorn is elated after running her five-kilometer leg in the Bekoji 100 Mile Relay.

This young woman took great interest in the Bekoji 100 Mile Relay, which passed by where she lived, both in watching her Ethiopian countrywomen and visitors from other countries run.

The day draws long on the Bekoji 100 Mile Relay as Girls Gotta Run coach Fatia Abdi (left) and program coordinator Sukare Nure warm up ahead of their leg. It took the group 13.5 hours to cover the 100 miles, from just after sunrise until about an hour after sunset.

After the Bekoji 100 Mile Relay, (from left to right) Leigh Orne, Liz McHutcheon, and Jason Suarez say goodbye to Girls Gotta Run Executive Director Kayla Nolan, who has her back to the camera.

You can always feel the love and affection emanating from the Girls Gotta Run team.

Almost all coffee in Ethiopia is made through an ornate ceremony. Here, beans are roasted over a charcoal fire for an afternoon coffee shared between friends. Also note the fresh-cut grass on the ground, an Ethiopian tradition carried out when guests visit your home.

Three Girls Gotta Run team members arrive for practice at the Bekoji stadium. Deep friendship is one of the team’s core principles.

Following a Girls Gotta Run team speed workout, several girls say a quick prayer of thanks for a safe and successful practice.

In addition to supporting teenage girls, Girls Gotta Run also supports their mothers with life-skills classes. As a result of this, the moms collectively operate a small store in Bekoji in which they sell food and spices. Here, a mom manages the store.

Girls Gotta Run academic scholar Zebu (right) kisses Executive Director Kayla Nolan in her secondary-school classroom.

Two girls walk one of Bekoji’s main streets in the long light of early evening.

Meghan Hicks

Meghan Hicks is the Editor in Chief of iRunFar. She’s been running since she was 13 years old, and writing and editing about the sport for around 15 years. She served as iRunFar’s Managing Editor from 2013 through mid-2023, when she stepped into the role of Editor in Chief. Aside from iRunFar, Meghan has worked in communications and education in several of America’s national parks, was a contributing editor for Trail Runner magazine, and served as a columnist at Marathon & Beyond. She’s the co-author of Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running with Bryon Powell. She won the 2013 Marathon des Sables, finished on the podium of the Hardrock 100 Mile in 2021, and has previously set fastest known times on the Nolan’s 14 mountain running route in 2016 and 2020. Based part-time in Moab, Utah and Silverton, Colorado, Meghan also enjoys reading, biking, backpacking, and watching sunsets.