Climate change is ruining running

ASELA - A full moon dimly lights an Ethiopian hillside as almost 300 teenage athletes shiver in the 6am chill, some springing into the air to keep warm while others show off elastic stretching positions.

ASELA - A full moon dimly lights an Ethiopian hillside as almost 300 teenage athletes shiver in the 6am chill, some springing into the air to keep warm while others show off elastic stretching positions.

But a coach shakes his head and says that in a few hours it will be time to stop as a scorching sun makes it too tough to train, something that was once unthinkable.

These ridges outside the southern town of Asela have long provided a high-altitude training ground for the giants of Ethiopian athletics such as Haile Gebrselassie. But now athletes fear global warming is affecting even the lush green highlands of Ethiopia, threatening a perfect climate for producing world beaters.

Far from Asela, world leaders will meet in Copenhagen to thrash out a plan on how to counter climate change and come up with a post-Kyoto deal to curb harmful emissions. But as the conference starts, Asela is getting hotter and, in another 20 years, it may be too hot to train at all.

Gebrselassie, who has broken 26 world records and was born 20 minutes away, can scarcely believe how Asela's climate has changed.

"Three weeks ago I was in Asela and I jogged 3km," he said. Training with fellow star Derartu Tulu, he thought he was going for an easy run but that's not how it turned out.

"It was around 9.30am and I was sweating," he said.

Average temperatures in the region around Asela have risen by up to 1,5 degrees Celsius since 1986. Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi will represent 52 African countries at Copenhagen and has already threatened to walk out if dissatisfied with the deal. - Reuters

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