Ahmed Muhumed, from Ethiopia to the United States


2014 Ahmed Muhumed - Distance Runner

Just talking to Ahmed and watching his smile you wouldn’t know what this young man has endured. He’s not your average high school student. He has a gift that he discovered, not in Ethiopia, but at Ron Russell Middle School in Portland, Oregon. He now attends West Salem High School and is determined to break some personal records in the 1500 meters, 3000 meters, and 5000 meters.

Ahmed is the son of Abdiwahab Abdi (Dad) and Fardowsa Ahmed (Mom). He has four brothers and four sisters. His dad is disabled but still finds time to volunteer three times a week at AYCO (African Youth and Community Organization) in Portland – he enjoys helping kids.

“When we were in Ethiopia, my dad fell down this deep hole on the ground that was meant for garbage. He injured himself severely and is limited on what he can do,” Ahmed said.

His mom stays at home with the kids – she does daycare work as well. It’s very difficult for a non-English-speaking person to find work. During the summers it’s much easier.

Ahmed grew up in eastern Africa (Ethiopia). He lived in a small town called Kabribayah close to a refugee camp – a lot of poverty in that area. For example, $50.00 in the U.S.A. is equivalent to $1500.00 in Kabribayah. He would walk six miles roundtrip to school every day. The school he attended is not like here in the U.S.A. He speaks of five-year-old kids through ten-year-old kids mixed in the same class. Every kid has the opportunity to advance at their own pace.

Ahmed was known as the smart kid in his neighborhood. His friends would always come to his home to ask for help or to play. He was more than willing to help his friends.

“I had friends knocking at my door all the time. I knew all of them by name. I’ll give you my educated guess of how many – let’s say around 200 friends,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed speaks of how his family was in the upper-middle class in Ethiopia, but here in the United States that class would be very poor. Kids played everyday, soccer mainly, but there would never be a chance to advance – it was just for fun.

“There wasn’t much money – plenty of poor kids running around everywhere. We would have fun and laugh all the time despite that hardship,” Ahmed said.

In 2005 there was a United Nations’ program. Not being clear of all the details to this program, Ahmed speaks of how the officials were giving families the opportunities to relocate to countries like Europe, the U.S., etc. His dad and mom were not thrilled at first, but when they learned about a possible better education and life for their kids, they decided to apply for a chance at coming to the United States. It wasn’t easy as they had to pass a series of written tests, medical examinations, etc. They had to meet strict qualifications. The family was approved after a few years – they had met all the qualifications and were U.S.A. bound.

Ahmed and his family arrived in Portland, Oregon, September 2011. He attended seventh and eighth grade at Ron Russell Middle School in southeast Portland. It was there that P.E. Teacher Mrs. Maccomber inspired this young man to become a runner. She had recognized how well he had done in the pacer test as a seventh grader. He scored 107 and later, 136. She also witnessed him running the 1600 meters in six minutes flat.

“Hey Ahmed, You’re doing track right?” Mrs. Maccomber asked.

“No, I’m doing soccer,” Ahmed said.

“Ahmed, if you run the 1500 meters in 4:15 I will pay for all of your high school sports’ fees at David Douglas,” she said.

Ahmed came really close – he ran a 4:30 in the 1500 meters. The P.E. teacher was so impressed by his dedication and work ethic to try and meet her request that she agreed to pay for his fees. Ahmed started realizing that he could be a very good runner. He had never been part of a track club, but worked hard at improving.

During his freshman year of high school his parents made a decision to move to Salem – about an hour away from Portland. They chose West Salem High School for Ahmed to attend. His brothers and sisters would attend there as well. West Salem is an area that consists of middle to upper-class families. In the flats there are more low-income families. Ahmed’s family settled in the flats.

Ahmed is not your average high school student. His hobbies are not watching TV, going to movies, playing video games, or hanging out with friends. His hobbies are cooking for his family, taking care of his brothers and sisters, and interpreting for his parents, who don’t speak much English. In addition to knowing English, Ahmed knows three more languages – Somali, Amharic, and Arabic.

“No one really knows that I enjoy cooking – especially Somali food. Back where I come from a lot of the people in the refugee camp were Somali. My grandma was really like my mother when I was growing up. I would help her walk across the street. My mom was always super busy with many things. Grandma taught me how to cook. She taught me many other things too – especially how to help people,” Ahmed said.

One can only imagine how tough the adjustment must have been for Ahmed, coming from such a different culture and accomplishing the many things he has at West Salem. As a freshman and sophomore he was the district champion in cross country and in track and field events. He has run 15:03 in the 5K cross country. He has run 8:46 in the 3K, and 4:03 in the 1500 meters. He was recently named the 2014 SJ All-Mid-Valley boys cross country athlete of the year.

“I run six days a week, and I realize I still have so much more room to improve. Running in the West Salem hills is great,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed admits that at West Salem the people are different than where he was raised. He’s learning so much everyday and in the academic world he has improved to a 3.8 GPA. He speaks of how his parents have supported him by just simply loving him and encouraging him to have fun but work hard at achieving his goals in life.

“The students at West Salem respect me because I’m a great runner. People tell me I smile all the time. I don’t have many real friends here, but I think I have a lot of fans here. They treat me good, maybe there’s some drama here and there, but not any different than any other student,” Ahmed said.


Ahmed in the middle preparing for a race

As a runner, Ahmed is the type of person that encourages runners that compete against him. He likes to support his competitors. One of his favorite memories is coming from behind and winning a race. At the end of the race, the person he passed up congratulated him and said, you are great man!

Ahmed has a long term goal of being the OSAA 6A State Champion in cross country and in track and field – he believes he can do it by his senior year. He would like to break 4:00 by running a 3:54 1500 meters, and he would like to break 8:46 by running an 8:25 3K. I wish him the very best and I’m rooting for him all the way. Keep on going Ahmed, never give up.

Ahmed was interpreting for me as I asked his mom some questions.

“I’m very proud of him. I want him to be successful … first in education and then in sports. We are all adjusting good here in the U.S.A.,” his mom said.

Ahmed, what are your two favorite moments in running?

Winning the 3K at the Twighlight Relays as a freshman and winning the 5K at the Harrier Classic in 2014.

What are your favorite subjects in school?

My favorites are Computer Science and World Geography.

Who is your favorite athlete?

Mo Farah, a Somali-born long distance runner from Great Britain.

What advice can you give a younger athlete?

Give it time. Don’t give up and stay positive.