The Business Game: Kenenisa Bekele juggles business and sport, by Steve Landells, NN Running team


NNLondon18-194.jpgKenenisa Bekele, photo by NN Running team

Kenenisa Bekele is the world record holder in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters. He has moved to the marathon, with some success. But, this is a challenging time to be a marathoner, with Eliud Kipchoge, Mo Farah and Galen Rupp, among others.

This story was done prior to Kenene's run at the Bern 10 Mile Grand Prix race on May 19. Kenenisa Bekele ran 46:47 for the win, with Switzerlands's Tadesse Abraham in second in 48:24. Here's a short video on Kenenisa's win from our friends at the @ethioathleticsnetwork.

Kenenisa Bekele still wants to hold the WR in the marathon, something that would give him, with his 5000m and 10000m WR, an unprecedented arguement for Bekele to be considered the finest distance runner in the world.

The Business Game

This story preceded Kenenisa Bekele's latest outing in NN Running Team colours in the 10-mile Bern Grand Prix on Saturday (May 19), we focus on the Ethiopian's passion for business. Kenenisa Bekele won the 10-mile Bern GP in 46:47.

East African running greats developing into successful businessmen is not unusual. Bekele's fellow Ethiopian distance legend, Haile Gebreslassie, has subsequently carved out a distinguished business career and for some time the world 5000m and 10,000m record-holder has pursued a similar path.

Bekele, who enjoyed a sensational track and cross country career which included 21 global titles, has in more recent time switched to road running, setting an Ethiopian record and climbing to number two on the all-time marathon lists with a stunning 2:03:03 clocking when winning the 2016 Berlin Marathon.

Yet in recent years he also astutely looked to his future beyond running by developing an impressive business portfolio.

"My interest in business began as a great investment after my career and I believe it's also important to develop the country of Ethiopia," says Bekele, who in his most recent competitive outing finished sixth in 2:08:53 at last month's London Marathon.

His business interests are wide reaching. He has built the Kenenisa Hotel in central Addis Ababa - situated in close proximity to the airport - and he has also invested in properties in Bekoji, the town of his birth, around 170 miles south of the Ethiopian capital city.

He has also built a state-of-the-art track and training facility in Sululta, which he hopes will provide the next generation of Ethiopian athletes an ideal training environment.

"Training in Addis is getting more and more problematic because of pollution," adds Kenenisa. "Sululta is outside the city in clean air, a quiet environment and it has a softer track. I also believe that athletes deserve a professional training facility around Addis.

"The facility offers a track, weight lifting (gym) and a sport hotel. It's also offers some nice countryside in which to run.

"I am satisfied with the business venture but we still need to do more investment. There is still a lot of open space, which can be developed for sport."

Taking the qualities he has learned from his running career - such as long-term planning, career development', patience and commitment and applying them to the business world have proved beneficial.

Yet juggling the demands of running and business can prove demanding.

"It's not easy because my business demands a lot of energy," he admits. "I try to devote a few hours a day for business, I do two training sessions, and try to rest as much as I can in between."

So, does Kenenisa enjoy the same buzz and thrill from business as he does his running career?

"Yes, I like to do business, but running in a competition is always more exciting," he admits.

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