The 2023 Rome Marathon is set to witness a piece of history repeat itself as another Ethiopian is vying to run the full marathon course barefoot. Ermias Ayele, a former Race Director of the Great Ethiopian Run, is set to run the 38th edition of Maratona di Roma on Sunday 19th March.
IN HONOUR OF ABEBE BIKILA The aim is to honour the heroic deeds of the legendary athlete, Abebe Bikila, during the 1960 summer Olympic Games on the streets of the Italian capital. Ermiyas says, “Abebe Bikila laid the foundation for the success of not only Ethiopian athletes, but Africans in general as he was the first black to win a gold medal in the Olympic Games. However, I have always felt that he did not get the recognition he deserved. Moreover, his story always inspired me and that’s why I am planning to emulate him in the same place and the same way, where he made history and pay tribute to all he’s done for athletics and Ethiopia.”
RUNNING BAREFOOT Ermias already completed the last two editions of the annual Great Ethiopian Run, International 10Km road race in Addis Ababa and the Hawassa Half Marathon barefooted and is already building momentum for his full marathon debut in Rome. “Running barefoot is not an easy thing to do. Your feet will bleed and it’s extremely painful but it will also teach you perseverance,” he says about the experience.
The 45-year-old Ethiopian is expecting a tough and emotional race in Rome. “I have done my preparations very well to make this meaningful and historic debut. My expectation is to finish the race between 03:30 – 04:00 hours. I hope to get the right experiences from this event that will help me run better on my planned barefoot marathon races in Athens, Tokyo and Paris in the coming 18 months, which all have connections with Abebe Bikila in one way or the other,” he told AIPS.
Abebe Bikila (1932 -1973)
Captain Abebe Bikila was the first Black African to win a gold medal at the Summer Olympic Games and a back-to-back Olympic marathon champion (1960 &1964). The Ethiopian athlete is credited for paving the way for African athletes to conquer global long distance races.
Among his many attributions and historic deeds, his maiden Olympic marathon victory at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, stands tall. Not only because he was the first black to win at the Games but also he did the unthinkable by winning the race, running the 42,195m, barefooted and breaking the then world record by clocking 02:15:16.
Rome Marathon and Ethiopian Athletes
The 2010 Rome Marathon was held in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Abebe Bikila’s victory at the Olympic Games. The winner of the men’s event, Ethiopian athlete, Siraj Gena, crossed the finish line barefooted in honour of the great Abebe Bikila.
Moreover, Ethiopian athletes have dominated the Rome Marathon throughout its history as they have come out victorious 11 times each in both the men and women categories. In the meantime, the course record is also under the name of Fikre Bekele 02:06:48 (Men) and Megertu Alemu 02:22:58 (Women), both from the east African country.
Credit: AIPS Media