This month, fourteen committed runners will join elite athletes Scott Jurek, Gebre Gebremariam and Werknesh Kidane for the first ever trail race in the cradle of humanity, culminating a week of shared contribution to the eye health and educational strength of Ethiopia.
Osprey athlete, climber and writer, Majka Burhardt is producing the project, called Accelerate Ethiopia. The expedition sparked as an idea for a fundraising running event to benefit the Himalayan Cataract Project, an leader in providing high-quality, low-cost eye care optimized for the developing world. Majka pulled in another nonprofit, imagine1day, which is a charity educating the next generation of leaders in Ethiopia—and together they created Accelerate Ethiopia.
As Majka prepares to leave on her journey to Ethiopia we caught up with her for a few questions…
What sparked the idea of Accelerate Ethiopia?
Ethiopia has an incredibly strong running culture in country and Ethiopian runners have an equally strong global reputation. The idea was to go to the beginning of most Ethiopians’ experience of running in Ethiopia—running on trails—and to take that running passion and the celebration of pure movement and freedom and associate it with some of the other wonderful things happening in Ethiopia right now.
The first-ever trail race in Ethiopia, cataract surgeries and educating leaders. That’s quite the undertaking for just over a week of time. Why did you decide to tackle these three issues in this short expedition?
Health, education, and empowerment are all inextricably linked. It seemed a natural fit to put them together for this initiative. More over I strongly believe these two organizations—imagine1day and Himalayan Cataract Project—are doing some of the best work in today’s world. It’s true that it’s important for an organization to be on-mission and it’s also important to see places where collaboration can create a bigger conversation. This is one of those times.
You’ve spent quite a bit of time in Ethiopia, what keeps you coming back?
Ethiopia is a powerful land with powerful people and it also has a powerful hold on our global consciousness. I keep going back for all of that. It’s a unique country that signals many different emotions, presumptions, and dreams for people all over the world. It’s like the Kevin Bacon but you only need two degrees instead of six. I’ve never thought of it that way before but think it might be the right way to explain it for me, and for others. Sometimes we don’t know how close we are all to the same issues until we find our portals. I fancy myself as a portal maker/finder/explorer/sharer. Ethiopia gave me that opportunity and I’ll always be thankful for that.
Majka Burhardt is a writer, climber and AMGA-Certified Rock Guide who lives in New Hampshire… learn more at majkaburhardt.com. Stay up to date on Accelerate Ethiopia by following Majka on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.