As a runner from a long standing distance running giant like Ethiopia it takes real talent to get people excited about your performances. Luckily that is something Muktar Edris seems to have.
Racing like a man to whom the European Tour has been his home for many years, this is a long distance star who not only looks older than he is, but acts like it too.
Filled with youthful exuberance and a lack of a fear, Edris, still only 20, has built on the experience of his junior success on both the track and the cross country fields to this year become the fastest 5,000 metre runner on the planet.
His standout performance in Stockholm was Bekele-like, as he showed his patience before streaking away from his opponents and did enough suggest that his chances of emulating his rival are high. In a performance that threw his name on to the tips of the tongues of many in the athletics world, Edris, racing in only his fourth Diamond League race, outlasted his far more experienced rivals to smash the 13 minute barrier for the first time and take victory.
Finishing in a time of 12.54.83, he had in one instance become Ethiopia’s biggest hope of dethroning Mo Farah at next year’s world championships in Beijing.
For Edris it was rightfully a moment to savour: “I was delighted! I Could not sleep for hours. I’ve been thinking about the hard worked I did for it and It was all worth it! I ran my PB, not to mention the big names I was able to overtake.”
Even before running that superb time in Stockholm, he and Hagos Gebrihewet had started to face the tag of Ethiopia’s next big things following their success at the 2013 World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszc, Poland. Racing as juniors Gebrihiwet picked up gold and Edris bronze to help their nation complete a well overdue double sweep in the men’s section of the competition and prevent the title landing in the hands of the Kenyans.
A moment Edris still holds fond memories of: “I cannot hide that I’m proud of my world cross bronze. Every year I’m focused on a particular target: I work hard and plan the season with my management to achieve it.” he said.
Now almost two years on, Edris is hoping to build on his brilliant year track season with some further winter success to stand him in strong stead for his world challenge in Beijing next August
First up in his cross country schedule is Atapuerca on November 16th, before the focus turns to the national trials and then potentially to a Chinese dress rehearsal at the World Cross in Guiyang: “National cross country trials is the first big appointment in the long preparation for the 2015 season: I’ll be competing against qualified athletes and I want to be ready for it.” Edris said.
“If I qualify for the World Cross Country (you cannot give things for granted when you run against very strong athletes), the “challenging bar” will be higher and I wish to achieve a good performance there. This would mean that my winter preparation went well and that is important. You cannot expect good results this summer if winter preparation is poor.”
Should he get to China on March 28th and add his senior silverware to his junior bronze, then he will be continue in the recognisable footprints of Bekele and Haile Gebraiselassie, the only two athletes to win gold in both classifications. Unsurprisingly, it would not be the first time Edris has used the pair for motivation: “My biggest inspiration is Haile: He inspired me not only for his physical ability but also for his mental strength.”
Yet even with his potential success in Asia this Spring, the young Ethiopian still faces a mountain of steps before he can hope to emulate his idol. Nonetheless it would be a important one.