Train hard, respect each other, work as a team, and honor your homeland...

We watched the NYC Marathon this morning and as we saw the fastest runners in the world compete over 26.2 miles of my favorite city, I was not surprised to learn that the winner of the men’s race was Lelisa Desisa, of Ethiopia.

 Photo: Uli Seit for The New York Times

Photo: Uli Seit for The New York Times

A while back I read a fascinating story about a town called Bekoji, in Ethiopia. Bekoji has been the home of eight Olympic medal-winning runners. Among them they have won SEVENTEEN Olympic medals, 10 of them gold. To help you realize how remarkable that is – this small town of 17,000 people has brought in more gold medals than India (a population of 1.2 billion) has won in all of the summer categories put together.

How is this possible? No one really knows for sure! Some speculate that it has to do with the elevation, the diet, the genes, and the livelihood in the region. Others think it has more to do with the town’s coach – Sentayehu Eshetu, who has trained most of Bekoji’s successful runners. Eshetu has his training down to a science. His athletes eat specific meals, complete grueling workouts, and listen to daily discussions by their coach on where to improve. Eshetu now trains 200 young athletes from the town and his rules are simple – train hard, respect each other, work as a team, and honor your homeland. The entire culture of the town has shifted around running as a competitive sport and professional path.

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I love what Eshetu is doing in Ethiopia – it’s a remarkable thing to train world-class athletes in a small village with very few resources. But now I want to shift your focus to another village, hundreds of miles away where a different kind of training is going on. In Katete, where Impact Network’s head offices are, we’re training for something that’s even longer than a marathon. Instead of running shoes and tracks, we’re equipping the communities with schools, supplies, and technology. Instead of coaches, we’ve got teachers, who are empowered with the tools and skills they need to do their job. Instead of world-class athletes, we’re raising world-class students who can compete on the world stage.

And our methods are similar too. Our students come to school, every day, for a set number of hours, rain or shine. They learn from teachers who are equipped with a tablet and projector to deliver content-rich eLearning lessons. Their teachers are also trained – they are coached weekly, given feedback in real-time, and lesson plan every day. Our students abide by those same rules – train hard, respect each other, work as a team, and honor their homeland. I want our education program to be as successful as Eshetu’s training program.

-Reshma