African man comes to Vietnam to fulfill dream of running

By Anh Ngoc   May 29, 2023 | 06:34 pm PT
Abraham Getahun graduated as an engineer but was also determined to become a professional athlete, and the VnExpress Marathon Quy Nhon on June 11 will be his first race.

The 35-year-old Ethiopian wanted to set an example for his family and children in his village about pursuing both education and sports.

A few months ago he searched for information about world marathons and noticed the VnExpress Marathon Sparkling Quy Nhon.

"I love Vietnam and know about this country," he says.

"That is why I directly contacted the organization board to register for the Quy Nhon event. It feels great that I am going to be one of 10,000 athletes competing on June 11."

Born into a poor family in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, Getahun started jogging while in 10th grade despite the difficult underfoot conditions. Without enough money to rent a professional training ground he ran on rough dirt roads in cheap old shoes.

Every morning he would wake up at 5 a.m. to practice, go to school at 8 a.m. and continue jogging after school.

At university, he tried to save money to pursue his passion for sports. He was chosen for the college team and he began to win prizes.

Getahun received hisbachelors degree in electrical and computer science in 2017. Photo courtesy of Abraham Getahun.

Getahun receives his his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and computer science in 2017. Photo courtesy of Abraham Getahun

There were times when Getahun missed important tests because of races, something his lecturers did not like. But he was determined not to drop out and to pursue running while completing a bachelor's degree in electrical and computer science.

"Ethiopia is famous for its runners, but very few of them have a degree. The pursuit of both is not easy due to the economic situation and lack of infrastructure for sports."

After graduating he got as job at a water company. Seeing his passion for running, his boss allowed him to take two mornings off every week. He would drive to another city 80 km away to practice and return to the office in the afternoon.

"I am addicted to running. If I do not run, my life will not be complete.

"Whenever you feel bored, you can run with me. If you want to be healthy, spend time doing sports."

Speaking about the VnExpress Marathon Sparkling Quy Nhon, he says he was very nervous about going abroad to compete for the first time.

He has been wanting to do this for a long time, but did not get support.

The VnExpress Marathon organizers fully supported him with registering and applying for a visa.

The unseasonable rain and ongoing civil war in Tigray made training difficult for Getahun, but he still set a goal of running 21 km in 66 minutes. This is faster than the VnExpress Marathon record.

He hopes a good performance in Quy Nhon will help him make a mark on the marathon scene and also provide the financial resources needed to participate in other races.

"I wish I could attend the VnExpress Marathon every year. I cherish Vietnam because it is the first country to welcome me and give me the opportunity to prove my ability."

Getahun is expected to get his visa this weekend and arrive in Quy Nhon on June 9.

After the event he plans to spend a week traveling. He says he is eager to meet other runners, explore the local culture and cuisine and try good quality running shoes in Vietnam.

After returning to Ethiopia he plans to quit his job and focus entirely on running for the next one or two years.

He hopes to make it to the national team for the Olympics and world marathon tournaments.

"I have achieved my goal of becoming an engineer. Now it is time to focus on my dream of becoming a professional athlete, not only representing Ethiopia but also maybe Africa in the future."

Abraham Getahun comes to VnExpress Marathon Sparkling Quy Nhon this June to fulfill his dream of running since highschool. Photo courtesy of Abraham Getahun.

Abraham Getahun will come to take part in the VnExpress Marathon Sparkling Quy Nhon in June to fulfill his dream of running since high school. Photo courtesy of Abraham Getahun

The 2023 VnExpress Marathon has attracted a large number of foreign runners. More than 300 foreign runners participated in two recent tournaments in HCMC and Hue.

They included many familiar names from powerhouses like Kenya and Ethiopia.

The Quy Nhon race will be the third VnExpress Marathon event to be held this year. Runners will start at 3 a.m. and run along the most beautiful roads in the coastal city such as Xuan Dieu and Nguyen Tat Thanh, Thi Nai Bridge and Phuong Mai sand hill.

The organizers will have nearly 20 water stations and a number of medical stations and toilets along the route.

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