Samuel Matete (ZAM) wins the 1991 World 400m Hurdles title (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Gebrselassie and Zambia's great hurdler Matete team up to launch Great Zambian Run

Ethiopia’s World marathon record holder Haile Gebrselassie and Zambia’s Samuel Matete, the 1991 World champion at 400m Hurdles, teamed up to launch the first leg of the Great African Run series, the Great Zambian Run 10km, in Lusaka, Zambia last week.

The Great African Run is a series of road races planned across many parts of the continent and is organized by Nova Africa, the African subsidiary of Nova International, which organizes the Great North Run in the UK among a slew of other world class events.  The Zambian leg of the series will take place on 29 November 2009. 

Young Global Leader

In a pre-prepared video message, Gebrselassie, who yesterday was selected as a Young Global Leader for 2009 by the World Economic Forum, could not attend the launch event in Lusaka as he was preparing for a 10km World record attempt in Manchester this Sunday, welcomed the move to spread mass participation racing across the African continent.

"I feel very happy to see Great Run spreading in Africa," he said. "I tell you this event goes far beyond a sporting festival, strengthening brotherhood, fighting HIV, promoting a healthy living style, building positive image of the country to out side world and leaving a lasting memory to the people of Zambia. I share all the excitement the event brings to the country I love, Zambia."

Multiple medallist over the barriers

Matete, who in an illustrious career as well as his World title achieved silver medals at the Olympics (1996) and World champs (1993 / 1995), is one of the patrons of the event, travelled 400km from his hometown to attend the launch in Lusaka.

"It is a privilege to see this dream event coming to Zambia and certain it will produce the best athletes of Zambian in the distance," said Matete.

But the event in Lusaka will be much more than a mass-participation race bringing Zambians together in the spirit of running. Organisers hope to lure world class athletes from Kenya, Ethiopia, and Europe to what they call a fast, flat, and record course which also includes major landmarks of the city.

“Elite participation is always the culture of Great Run events,” said Gashaw Zergaw, General Manager of Nova Africa Event. “But we will have athletes taking part in the race from Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Europe. 10,000 participants are expected to take part in the inaugural event.”

Elshadai Negash for the IAAF