Bekoji, the runners’ town
photo by Francesco Alesi(PARALLELOZERO)


Askale Tafa is a 29 year-old runner from Bekoji. She won in several marathons all around the world. She lives in Addis Ababa with her husband, Tolo Debele, also a marathon runner from Bekoji. With the money from running they opened a hotel and restaurant in Bekoji.


Even though they are long distance runners the trainings consists of speed running.


Lencoo Tesfare 5000m runner. After training he works in his friend’s barber shop until night time. His wage is 20birr (€0,80) per day.

Runners and saints are the images usually found in the rooms of young runners.


Running in Bekoji is very common. Beside the athletes, in a town with no cars, people run to simply get from one place to another, while herding farm animals, and also just for fun.


A poster on the wall of the female dormitory in the live-in Athletic Centre in Bekoji. Tirunesh Dibaba is the 5000m world record holder and she won eight gold medals in the Olympics and the Athletic World Championship. She is from Bekoji.

Boys jumping in the street with a homemade obstacle.

Running shoes are of vital importance in Bekoji. Once they get worn out they must be repaired because runners don’t have enough money to get new ones. To buy new running shoes is a long term investment.


The forest of Bekoji in the early morning. On Wednesday they do physical exercise for two hours, using whatever they find in the forest in their training.


After training, on the way back home, some runners wash their running shoes in the stream between the forest and the town. Most of the runners have just one pair of shoes, running shoes, and they also wear them when not training.


Sentayehu Eshetu, who everybody in Bekoji calls “the coach.” Here he is doing training programs outside the Bekoji Sport Federation office. As gym teacher in the high school of Bekoji he discovered and trained all of Bekoji’s runners and some of them, such as Kenenisa Bekele, Tirunesh Dibaba, and Derartu Tulu, became the best in the world.


At the end of the daily training, on the way back home, runners have fun playing in the stream between the forest and the town.


A crowded place where people watch runners from Bekoji on TV competing at the Athletic World Championship in Moscow.

Even during the cold rainy and cold season Bekoji’s runners don’t stop training. Bekoji lies at 2800mt above the sea level., At this altitude the air is thin and the blood produces more hemoglobin.


6:00am Runners gather in “the forest” of Bekoji for daily training.