Yesterday morning’s run was, without a doubt, the hardest I have ever done. I should perhaps have taken better note of the warning signs before we started – the fact that the usually packed minibus was conspicuously empty (most of the other runners having decided to train alone), and the steadily rising road that we followed for the duration of the forty minute ride to the start point. The road at Entoto mountain starts at around 2,600m and rises to 3,200m, which is about the height at which you start to get a headache and, more worryingly in my case, to loose the circulation in your fingers. The coach, Mersha, told me at the start that the run would be ‘easy but hard’, which is exactly the kind of cryptic statement you’s prefer not to hear when you’ve just stepped off a mini-bus at six in the morning and taken your first look up a semi-dark mountain road.
After the first three kilometres I was feeling relatively confident, as the pace actually did feel easy. It increased steadily, though, and this combined with an uphill opening 11km to destroy my early enthusiasm and reduce the rest of the run to a struggle to finish. We are usually dropped off and picked up in different places, with no road access to the trails that we run on, which means there is no option but to complete the full distance of the run. In yesterday’s case this meant 25km of increasingly laboured running, but at least it will make long runs back home feel easy, and the views were stunning when I was able to appreciate them!
The view from the trail. I’d have taken some better photos if I was in a better state!
For anyone who is interested (and I’m aware that this will probably be a select few!) I am going to list each week’s training. Here is the first week:
Sunday 4th – AM 8 miles steady. PM 5 miles easy.
Monday 5th – AM 8 miles steady. PM 4 miles easy.
Tuesday 6th – AM 13 miles steady – very hard with the altitude.
Wednesday 7th – AM 8 miles steady. PM 4 miles easy.
Thursday 8th – AM 2.5 mile warm up, 15 x 300m on dirt track with 45 – 50 seconds recovery. Ran fairly cautiously as I was wary of the altitude. PM 4 miles steady.
Friday 9th – AM 7 miles steady. PM 4 miles easy.
Saturday 10th – AM 2.5 miles warm up, 15km measured tempo run in 54 minutes. Although the pace was not particularly fast, this still felt pretty hard at 2,400m. PM 4 miles easy.
Total – 89.5 miles.
Most of the steady and easy running that we do is in the forest near the flat, and consists of running zigzags through the trees with Gudisa, who seems to pick his route entirely at random and frequently doubles back on himself or changes pace. A few days ago on a designated ‘steady’ run he sped up gradually and kept increasing the pace up the hills until he could tell that I was struggling, when he turned around and said ‘some days I try to kill you ok?’ before resuming running at a gentler pace. We frequently have other runners joining us setting the pace for a while before disappearing off into the trees again. The element of play in training here is definitely one that lacks a bit in the UK, and helps to make the hours of running pass more quickly.
Some shoes. Thanks to Run 4 It for providing me with my trainers for the trip and to various Americans for sending Gudisa his.
In non-running related news, I have mastered the first order of Amharic characters, so can now read any consonant followed by an ‘a’. This means I can read about 1/7th of the sounds that make up the language. My week old vocabulary means that even when I can read the sounds, it doesn’t mean too much to me just yet, although I can recognise the words ‘coffee’ and ‘beer’ so I’m getting there…
I leave you with the latest in a series of photos of rural football pitches…