In a setting far removed from his native Dima village in rural Gojjam province in Ethiopia’s northwest, long-distance runner Andarge Ayal Tamiru donned his running shoes once again for a 5km practice run around Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium track.
Though somewhat disappointed with his performance, he is expecting to post a solid time in the 10km race at Sunday’s Angkor Wat Marathon.
The 28-year-old, who works as a chef at Phnom Pen’s Sara restaurant, bemoans the fact that work commitments have curtailed his ability to train as hard as he would like, but he insists he will be out to win.
“As I work as a chef in Phnom Penh, I haven’t been able to train for a few months – but I can run. I will be trying my best on Sunday despite my lack of training. Of course I want to win.”
He is also targeting the 2017 Angkor Wat International Half Marathon this December.
Tamiru says that finding a sponsor to help with travel expenses and equipment is essential if he is to continue running in the Kingdom’s serious competitions.
“If I find a club or sponsor it would great, for it is better for me if I run,” he said. “My family would be happy for me if I could run full-time – even if they lose a chef!”
The ongoing situation in Yemen saw his family move from the capital Sana’a to Cambodia in February. Tamiru arrived only two months ago from Sana’a, where he used to accompany Yemeni long-distance runners on training runs, and he last raced properly in November in qualifying for a Yemeni competition.
Because of this, he is reluctant to predict a time, but says he would be happy enough with anything under 45min on Sunday. But he says that in better condition he would be confident of clocking between 30-35min.
According to fitness website livestrong.com, elite athletes will finish a 10km race in 30 minutes and under.
Tamiru recorded a time of 16:28 in his 5km practice run of 10 laps of the Olympic Stadium track on Monday. That same pace over a 10km race would see him clock around 33min. The 10km run at the Angkor Half Marathon in December was won in a time of 35.37.
The humble but confident Tamiru (pictured, John Clamp) has been running competitively since school. He says he has always loved running, but after seeing heroes such as legendary compatriot Haile Gebrselassie achieve sporting greatness, his passion soared.
“In Gojjam province, everbody runs. It is part of the culture as there is no public transport or bikes,” he explains. “A farmer will run to his fields for work and back home at the end of the day, for example.”
This fuels the belief of the 1m 75 (5ft 7in), 61kg (134.4lb) Tamiru, who has the rangy, slender physique ideal for long-distance runners. “I am confident of doing well on Sunday, and maybe even of winning,” he says.
When told that the Angkor Wat International 10km race was won in a time of 35.37 last December, Tamiru replied with a shy smile: “Well, I’ll have to finish quicker than that then.”