Friday, 10 April 2009

The last post! Clever, eh?

Well this is my final 24hrs in Ethiopia. I am looking forward to coming home but I am also going to miss the place! I have made some nice friends whilst here and I will miss our conversations in pigeon English, especially the looks I get when they don’t have a clue what I am saying!!
One of the things I am going to miss the most is the training in a large group. Ok we have a fair sized group at home, but we only really meet on a Tuesday and Saturday for sessions, whereas here everyone runs together everyday, easy, steady, hard, everything together as a large group.
I’ll also miss the extra time which I have had to do the little things like stretching before and after every run. At home I do very little stretching, mainly due to time constraints, but here you have all day so I have been doing a minimum of 15minutes prior to running and about 45 minutes after running (both dynamic and static) I feel like that has really made a difference as a) I have had no niggles whilst here despite the heavy training load and b) I feel a lot more flexible for it.

I’ll also miss my afternoon nap. I will miss that BIG time! Getting up at 5.30/6am won’t be as easy back at home as I won’t be going to bed at 8pm like I have been here, so my afternoon naps are going to be even more missed!!

Something which I won’t miss is the repetitiveness of the food! I think I may suffer withdrawal symptoms from injera but I doubt very much that I will miss not having it every single day!! I am looking forward to a nice pizza, some maltloaf and a Wispa! Although I’ve managed to go four week without chocolate and without craving it so I am going to try and cut down on the amount I eat once back at home – just 3 bars a day instead of the usual 4!!

Well apart from counting down the days until I go home, nothing else interesting has happened around here, it’s all been training, resting and eating! Training has continued to improve with some very pleasing sessions.

On Tuesday it was a long run day. For the others this meant 2.5 hours as a lot are starting to ease back on training with marathons approaching. I wanted to do 90minutes so found a group who said that they were doing this. After 75minutes we were still in the middle of nowhere! It turns out that the group was doing 2 hours! Thankfully they got back to the field where the bus was parked in 1hour 45minutes so I stopped then as they went on to lap the field for another 15 minutes. The run wasn’t too bad actually despite being longer than I wished. It started off at a really easy pace and gradually picked up until we were doing 7minute miles for the last 3 miles. The whole run was on the country and because of the rain we have had lately there was lots of mud which clogged to your shoes making them feel like ton weights and making it much harder to lift your feet. When the mud randomly dropped off, as it did every now and then, you had to check that it was just the mud and that you hadn’t lost your shoes also!!

Wednesday was probably my best session since I’ve been up here. We did a pyramid session of 1minute, 3minute, 5minute, 3minute, 1minute with 1minute recovery between reps and 5 minutes between sets. I did 3 sets the rest did 4. I started out with the slower end of the group but ended up running away from them. When I say slow these girls have ran around 2.30 for the marathon! Anyway for the 2nd and 3rd sets I joined in with Gete’s group and although I had to work hard I managed to stay with them without being eyeballs out! Even matching Gete stride for stride on some of the efforts! It was a long session for me and doing it on the grass gave an extra strength element so I was really pleased with how I handled it and even more pleased with how my legs felt on my evening easy 5!!

Thursday morning was a bit of a change. I set out thinking, because I was told, I was doing 80minutes. However after only 63minutes we arrived back at the field and stopped! I did think about lapping the field for another 20minutes to make up the extra but then decided that the extra 2.5 miles which I would cover wasn’t going to make a huge difference in the bit picture so settled with the 63minutes instead! A nice easy 5 in the afternoon set me up nicely for my final 15km tempo run!

Well the 15km tempo had a bit of a change to it! Today it was 20km! Although not all tempo. The idea was to do the first 10k easy (6.45 pace) and then pick up to do the second 10k fast (6minute pace). I was feeling really comfortable at the easy pace until about 2.5miles when I started to develop a stitch under my left ribcage! I managed to control it a bit and carried on with the pace but the pain was getting worse. By the time I got to 10km (41.40) It was taking me every ounce of strength which I had just to put one foot in front of the other!! I managed to jam my fingers deep enough under the ribcage to squeeze it out and gain some relief but this only lasted a short while and then I was in severe pain again. Still I managed to up the pace slightly so that I was clicking over at 6.30 pace until the 17km mark when it all became too much and I had to reduce to a slow jog for the last 3km!

I’m not being downcast by it as at least there was a reason why I ran so slowly compared to previous weeks. Plus even though I was in terrible pain most of the way I still ran my 1st 10k 20seconds faster than the 1st week I was here!! Also it was my first “bad” run since I’d been here!

I am mystified as to what caused the stitch. I’d eaten my usual banana and bread like every morning here and I’d drunk plenty of water, both yesterday and this morning. It was boiling hot today – so hot that I burnt the back of my legs whilst I was running! – so maybe that has something to do with it? Whatever it was I hope I don’t get it again, especially not in a race!
During dinner on Wednesday night Sergi and Tadala were trying to get me to eat a hot green chili pepper! These guys eat loads of the things but I was all too aware of what it would do to my mouth and guts so politely declined!! Sergi insisted that it is green chili’s which make Ethiopian athletes run so fast and that if I ate just one I would run really fast and no-one would be able to keep with me!! I don’t doubt for a minute that it will make me run fast…to the toilet! But I wasn’t willing to test the theory so they left it at that and allowed me to finish my injera – which will apparently also make me run fast!! What happened to good old fashioned hard training??

Well, I’m off to the gym now for my final weights and core session here. Only one more sleep and two easy runs and I’ll be back home!!!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Downill now!

Well not long now till I go home! I’m really starting to look forward to getting home. Not that I haven’t enjoyed my time here, its been fantastic, but I’m missing friends and family and 4 weeks without home comforts is more than enough for me!!

Not much has been happening here. Apart from training twice a day, 3 times on the days I go to the gym, my days are spent sitting/lying around reading. I’ve made my way through 3 books already, which is a lot for me – it usually takes me 6 months to read a Topsy and Tim book!! I’ve just finish reading ‘Again to Carthage’ which is the sequel to ‘Once a Runner’ by John. L. Parker. Jr. It was ok, not as good as ‘Once a Runner’ and a bit too predictable and ‘Disneyed’ for my liking, but it helped pass the time away! Before that I read ‘Liz McColgan: Queen of the Track’. It wasn’t what I was expecting, I thought I was her autobiography but it wasn’t, it was more a write up of someone investigating her life. It was still good though; not the best, but it gave a good insight into her hard, often too hard, training! I’m now onto ‘The Secret of Crickley Hall’ by James Herbert. Now this book is good! It’s one of those which you can’t put down, you have to keep on reading to find out what is happens next, then something else happens and before you know it, it’s 11pm and you have to be up at 5.30 for training – not good!!

On Sunday morning we watched the Paris Marathon. A few of the guys were running it and it was shown love on ETV (Ethiopian Television). They broadcast it in a small box in the corner of the usual program for that time/day. It meant that there was no commentary but that was ok at least we could see it! One of the guys did really well running 2.07.?? and I think one of the girls did about 2.26 but I’m not sure!

Apart from that it’s been all training this week. Friday was the 15k tempo again. This week it was back to the road in Sulultaa. The rest of the group were doing 30k so I joined in for the 2nd half – bad choice as it meant I was running all the way into the wind! Still I kept up with them for the first 10k – clicking off 6minute miles like they were going out of fashion! And then they picked it up a bit and I struggled. I tried to go with them but it was too much so I settled back into my 6minute pace and finish comfortably. My time was 20seconds faster than last week and my first 10k was 2.5minutes faster than 2 weeks ago!! I went to the gym on the afternoon to do my usual weights and core and also did 20minutes on the elliptical machine.

Saturday was just an easyish 80minutes. I had intended to run with Yishi again to make sure it was easy but I lost her when she stopped for the toilet so I ended up running with Martha and Sahou. The pace wasn’t too bad but I drifted of towards the end and got a little lost in the trees. Nothing too bad – just meant I came back onto the road about 200metres from where I should have been!! A nice easy 5 in the afternoon and some more self massage and I was ready for my track session the next morning!

Once again I didn’t have a clue what session the others were doing so I had decided to do some fast 300’s. As it happened two of the other girls, China and Sahou, were doing 20 x 400 so I ran my 300’s in with their 400’s which gave me a really good pace of 52/53 for each 300! I did 15 of these and then dropped to 200’s. However after 2 200’s (32 seconds each) I called it a day and got in a longer warm down to make sure the legs were rinsed of all crap! I was really pleased with this session as it is just as fast as I would probably do at home, although the recoveries were quite long – 90seconds, but then again I would probably have that at home also for a speed session. Just shows that my legs can go fast at 5am!!

Just to make sure the legs were rid of all the leftovers from the speed session I did a nice easy 5 on the afternoon. When I got back I tallied up my miles for the week – this week I got a wooping 100miles!!! Not bad eh?!

Monday, I was worried my legs would be mangled from the track session but they were good. Still though I ran with Yishi to make sure that the pace was easy and not edging into steady as it has been with Gete. It was really muddy today as we have had a lot of rain the last few days – some great thunder and lightening storms! My shoes must have weighed more than my body weight with all of the mud clinging to them so it made my legs and feet feel weird – still some extra resistance will only help ‘make legs strong’!! I finished off the day with a trip to the gym for weights and core and 20minutes on the elliptical. On the way home I treat myself to a Kaldi’s Coffee hot chocolate. I thought I deserved it after the training I have put in lately and I thoroughly enjoyed it – it’s the closest thing to chocolate I’ve had for over 3 weeks now!!

Monday, 6 April 2009

Next post

After the excitement of the egg sandwich on Sunday the week started well. We did our usual 80minutes ‘easy’ up at Sulultaa, although today’s easy suddenly became steady, hitting sub 7minute miles for a lot of it! My legs were already feeling worse for wear from my track session the day before so I dropped off the pace, making sure to stay close enough to the group so that I could see where they were going, the last thing I wanted was to get lost in the forests! By the time we got back I had covered 12 miles. I wouldn’t do that pace at home for a 12 miles easy so no the wonder I felt the pace today!!
In the afternoon I nipped into Bole to check emails and use the gym. This is where the day got better! As I went into the gym I was introduced to a new training partner, none other than Haile himself!! Yip here I was shaking hands and lifting weights with Haile Gebrelsalassie! Big G! In my opinion, the greatest male distance runner EVER!! So, after I pick myself up off the floor, I got on with my weights and core sessions, taking a few pointers along the way from the Bigman himself! He actually isn’t as small as he appears in TV. Ok this is me I’m comparing him to, but he really didn't seem that small!!

At the end of the session I managed to pluck up the courage to ask him for a photo. I don’t know why I was nervous about asking, he’d had his workout interrupted a few times with requests for autographs and photos and had happily obliged each time. I suppose he is used to it, but still I felt bad asking! Anyway he agreed and I now have a prized photo of me and him looking knackered and sweaty post workout!! I’m going to see if I can get it printed off before I leave so that I can ask him to sign it for me!

Tuesday, my legs were feeling better but I just ran for one hour very easy with Yishi on the morning and then an easy 5 on “aly’s trail” in the afternoon, just to make sure that they were ok, no point in wrecking them even more!!

“aly’s trail” is so called because whenever the lads see me running in the forest I am always running up and down the same stretch of trail so that I don’t get lost! Because of this they have named it “aly’s trail”! See I’ve even got my own trail named after me now – more than at home!! It’s a nice trail too, about 600m long, gently downhill one way and uphill the other so you get a good workout on it!

Most of the group was doing a 3 hour cross country run on the morning. Although those running Paris Marathon this weekend (Sunday 5th) just did one hour. By my calculations there are about 8 – 10 going over to do Paris. I hope they get there ok as one of the lads thought he was going to my ‘home’! I hope not or he won’t be running in the Paris marathon on Sunday!!

Wednesday, the session I’ve been dreading since getting here – hills!! As usual I didn’t have a clue what the session was apart from hills! Justina had told me about a hill session she had done out here which was 10 x 3minutes – I was hoping and praying that it wasn’t this one today!! That would have been my worst nightmare!! Thankfully it turned out to be 20 x 90seconds with a jog back recovery. When we showed no sign of stopping after 10 I asked the two girls I was running with how many we were doing – 20! After the 20th one I breathed a sigh of relief that I had completed the session without dying – how wrong could I be? We now had 20 x the downhill to do with jog up recovery!! Thankfully on completion of those 20 I was told “finish, no more”, don’t worry I wasn’t going to try and do any more!! The session, not including warm up and down, had lasted well over 80 minutes!! Good half marathon training though! A nice afternoon 5 around “aly’s trail” got the crap out of the legs ready for the onslaught of the next day!

Thursday, to make sure my legs were good for the 15k tempo the next day I made sure that today’s runs were very easy. Rather than going with Gete’s group, which I have noticed is getting slightly faster lately, or is it just me getting more knackered? I went with Yishi and some of the other girls instead. The fact that we only covered 10miles in the 80mins compared to the 12 miles we covered last weeks shows the difference in the pace. The 80minutes was followed with 10 x 100m strides and the normal 45minutes of stretching – I’ve never stretched so much in my life, but I am feeling better for it, I can even touch my toes now!! Again a very easy 5 on the afternoon and some self massage and my legs were starting to feel ‘normal’ again, just in time for my weekly 15k tempo!

I had thought about taking a rest day on Thursday had my legs still felt mangled, but as they felt good after Wednesday’s hill session I scrapped the idea. Plus I need something to pass the time of day! I had looked into a safari. It seems a waste to come all this way and not see what there is outside of Addis. Also the lure of seeing the “big 5” in their natural environment was very tempting! However, as the nearest game reserve is 100km outside of Addis and I haven’t had my injections or taken any malaria pills, Addis is too high for mosquitoes to survive and pretty much tropical disease free, it was advised that I shouldn’t take the risk! I would have loved to have gone but it seemed a silly risk to take considering my sole purpose for being here is to train, not to enjoy myself looking at the local wildlife! Next time I come I will be more prepared!!

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Half way and all is well

Well here I am at the half way point of my trip. As said previously, it was slow to start but now I am into the swing of things I am really loving it!

However, I think I’m taking to trying to be an Ethiopian a little too literally as I now have “Ethiopian hair” – Yishi braided it for me – very cooling when running but hurts like hell when the sun burns your scalp!! I also now have an Ethiopian name! From the start some of the guys refused to call me aly as it is a “Muslim name”, so they have taken to calling me Baby China! China because I’m white and pretty (apparently!) just like a China cup and Baby because there is already one China in the group. Why the other girl is called China I have yet to figure out as being Ethiopian she is far from white!!

I’m also trying to look the part whilst I’m here and I have been doing some wheeling and dealing, proper Del Boy style!! Yishi has discovered my Nintendo DS and is now addicted to “germ buster”!! I was quite happy to let her play on it, even though she slept in for training one morning because she had stayed up too long playing on it!! Anyway after she had had it for about a week she brought it back along with an Ethiopia t-shirt for me for allowing her to play on it! I jokingly said that she could keep it in exchange for 3 tracksuits and another t-shirt! With that she off to round up the said items from the lads!! She hasn’t yet came back with it all so I think the deal is off, but there is still time!!

On Saturday we all sat down to watch the World Cross Country Championships. I have never seen people so happy for their fellow countrymen winning races! Bearing in mind that they don’t even know these guys, well apart from the winner of the “junior” men’s race who is the brother of one of the girls. Anyway, they celebrated like they were best friends with each of them. They were really disappointed with the result of the senior women’s race as their best athlete was “only” 3rd! Good job they are not British or you would have had to hide the razorblades!! But for the rest of the races there was singing, dancing, hugs and high fives all round! The singing and dancing in the streets carried on late into the night but with an early track session the next morning we could not join in!

The coverage of the race was good, apart from frequent ad breaks for the Ethiopian Army!! The commentary was in English so I could understand what was being said for once! In the female races the British girls got some good coverage, especially new member to our Saturday training group Kate Avery, who had a good 10 seconds of her coming down the finishing straight – great run by the way!!

Training has been going really well and I was very pleased with Friday’s tempo run. We all did 15k, again on a long straight road with at least 3 hefty hills along the way. The idea was to start off steady and then pick up the pace every 5k so that the last 5k was ran at 67 half marathon pace! I knew that there was no way on earth that I would be able to do that pace so I started off with the group but as they picked up the pace I just kept to my own pace – picking it up as I went but not by as much as they did. My splits were 20.30, 19.26, 18.00 with a 5.40 last mile!! Bearing in mind that this was only a tempo run (average HR 160BPM) and not flat out and was at 9500ft I thought that it was a very good training run!!

After my now routine afternoon nap – I’m going to miss these naps when I return to work! I went to the gym to do my weights and core. Whilst there I did 40mins on the elliptical trainer rather than going for my afternoon 5 mile run. This allows the legs and lungs to work the same as going for a run but there is no impact on the legs so much kinder to them.

Saturday was up to Sulultaa for 80minutes easy. I have been running with Gete’s group lately and have noticed that the pace has been picking up from the very easy pace of my first few runs. Today’s run averaged out at about 7.20 mileing which is pretty brisk for an easy run at 8500ft the day before a track session!! My legs were starting to feel a little tired towards the end, no wonder! I wasn’t looking forward to the track session the next day, especially the 5am start of it!!

I felt awful on the 3mile warm up and it took me at least 2.5miles for my legs to feel anywhere near alive! I didn’t have a clue what the others were doing , turns out either 15 x 1k or 10 x 800,400, but I very much doubted that I could stay with their pace anyway so I set myself a session of 10 x 600 with 200 jog recovery. I slotted in behind people as and where possible and managed to hit them all in around 1.54/1.55 so I was really pleased with that as the way my legs were feeling I thought I’d be lucky to hit 80 pace.

When I got back I totted up my miles for the week and discovered I’d covered a massive 95! Not bad considering not one was ran at an altitude of less than 8500ft and most were over 9000ft!! No wonder my legs were tired!!

There was some excitement on Sunday too! We had something different for breakfast…egg sandwiches!! It wasn’t a fried egg with copious amounts of tomato ketchup but it still went down well!! We also had a cup of tea. It was a welcome break from water or OJ, even if it did take me half an hour to convince them that in England we put milk in our tea and that I didn’t want half a pound of sugar in mine – I’m sweet enough!! One of the first things I will do when I get home is go to my nanas and drink a bottomless cup of tea, made only the way my nana can!! Get the biscuits in nans!!




I think I'm falling in love ... again

You know what?...I think I’m falling in love! Ethiopia is really starting to grip my heart! Ok I’ll admit it wasn’t love at first sight and it took some getting used to, but now I’m comfortable with it all it really has grabbed my heart bit by bit until it has a firm hold of me!! Don’t worry though, I will be coming home – I’m looking forward to my home comforts already!! What I wouldn’t give for a good cup pf tea and slice of Maltloaf!!

I’ve never been anywhere in the world quite like Addis – it’s a crazy but fascinating place! The people are so friendly, apart from the small boys who throw stones at you, but that’s boys for you!! Everyone says hello and asks how you are. I was told before I came out here to be prepared to be the centre of attention. You know me, I hate being in the limelight, but I knew that I was going to stand out here. I mean I have lily white skin in a place full of cocoa coloured skinned people; of course I’m going to stand out! But I wasn’t prepared for all the handshakes, “hellos” and “how are you’s” I get just walking down the street. Ill be walking along and I’ll get a “hello white lady” or “hello forenge”. Could you imagine if I did that in say Oxford Street? If I walked by someone and said “hello black lady”. I would be locked up for racism or hate crime!! But here it is perfectly acceptable!!

The craziest thing about Addis is its roads! As long as you’ve got a horn your fine! You can basically do what you want whilst driving as long as you beep your horn! Ian would love it and the girls would never complain about LD’s driving again had they to ride on our bus to training – talk about manic driver!!

We were involved in a spot of road rage the other day. On our way back from training we got right to the end of our road when another bus decided he wanted to be on our side of the road. The driver beeped his horn but our driver didn’t like it and continued on coming within millimeters or a head on crash! Now it was a battle of wills between the two drivers. Both refused to move and sat shouting at each other. I don’t know what was said as it was all in Amharic but the athletes didn’t like it and all jumped off the bus to join in the argument! I was left sitting watching in amazement as a fair sized crowd gathered. It all ended peacefully when Mr Policeman came along with his nice shiny machine gun! The other bus reversed and let us on our way home for food and a shower. Or so I thought! No, we did a u-turn and headed off back down the road! After about 10 minutes of driving we pulled up at the Marcato. Again everyone piled off the bus, leaving me with a warning to “lock doors, many thief in area”!! Great, left on my own in the middle of the Ethiopian equivalent to Hendon!! Thankfully they weren’t long and no-one tried to pinch me and I was soon home tucking into my corn flakes!!

Training is getting better by the day as I get more and more used to the altitude. The hardest part is doing everything ‘blind’. The sessions are all explained in Amharic and if I ask if any easy run is 1 hour, 1hour 20 or 1 hour half all I get is a “yes”! I can usually work out by about 40minutes how long it is going to be though as if we haven’t started heading back it is going to be more than 1 hour!

Tuesday we went to a new place for a long run. I asked Getahney how far the others were running; his answer was “long, long way”! Considering last week he classed 35km as not too far I knew they were in for a long one! Turns out that it was 3 hours! Not too bad for elite marathoners apart from it was on a long straight undulating stretch of road. Simply out for 90mins, turn, back for 90mins! These guys must be so mentally tough! I joined in for the middle hour and covered 10miles in about 64 minutes. The worst part for me was the underfoot surface. The road was stony gravel with some large stone which threatened to turn an ankle. Thankfully I got through it unscathed. It was so, so hot out there too!

When we got back to the start/finish point, the bus had been following so that people could jump on and off and to hand out drinks, there was 3 little kids hovering around. Everyone was giving them their empty water bottles, just the equivalent of a Volvic or Buxton bottle nothing special, but you should have seen the smile it brought to their faces! It really warms the heart to see kids getting such pleasure from such a simple thing, the smiles on their faces said it all!! Back home we would have just had them thrown back at us!!

Wednesday was my first session up here. We went to a large field up in Sulultaa. This field is massive – about 2miles round and has really nice grass for training on; you just have to avoid the goats, donkeys and cows! The session, as I worked out after a few reps, was 2mins on 2 mins off. Once I worked out what the efforts and recovery was I set myself a goal of 10 reps. I didn’t have a clue how many the others were doing and didn’t really want to guess (turned out between 15 and 25!) I got to 6 and really started to feel it. I bargained with myself that if I did the next two reps all out I would stop at 8! However, 7+8 felt great so I kept on and did the original 10 planed. They were tough but I got through them without loosing touch with the pack too much, probably only lost about 10 yards at the worst!

Thursday was one the classic cases of running ‘blind’. I asked one of the girls if we were running for 1 hour and she said yes. After 50mins and we were still in the middle of nowhere I figured that it was going to be a) more than 1 hour or b) mega fast home! Thankfully it was a and we got home dot on 80mins, pleased with myself that I kept up the whole way despite the hilly and rocky ground – I think I’m getting used to it now – might even try some fells when I get home!!

Every afternoon I’ve done an easy 5 up in the forest. We live on a massive hill – about 200m from the top. Thankfully all of the athletes walk to the top before starting their evening runs, so who am I to do different? If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me! Plus I am here to live, eat and train like an Ethiopian so I’m not going to change this part!!



Ethiopia part two - Saturday 21st - Monday 23rd

My mission to train, live and eat like an Ethiopian is going well. I am more relaxed with my surrounds now but as im still acclimatizing to the environment I have adjusted a few things slightly. I feel that I am acclimatizing well to the training and starting to fit in with the routine but its not just the altitude which my body needs to adapt to, but the whole of my physical surrounds – especially the crazy roads!!
One of the biggest things is not being able to communicate well with the others, I’m a woman of few words to start with without having language barriers in the way also!! A lot of the athletes speak little bits of English, they need to as they travel the world – especially Europe – for races. But as I said before my Mackem accent is puzzling them!! They are more used to the Queens English rather than Mackem English!! I’m getting by though, they have taught me a few words of Amharic and I’m teaching them a bit of English. I am confident that when Sergie wins London next month his post race BBC interview will start “why aye, it was class man!!”
The part which I have adjusted slightly is the getting used to doing nothing between the hours of 10.30 and 4.30. This is proving hard as I am usually hard at work during these hours at home but here there is nothing to do except sit in your room!! By the weekend I was starting to get cabin fever so nipped into Bole for a few hours. I used the excuse that I needed to see Richard and use the gym so that I didn’t get told off, again, by the others!!
I keep on getting told off for all sorts of things. Mainly because I’m doing western things like trying to run in shorts and t-shirt at night. “it is cold” I try telling them to me it is hot but to no avail, so its trackie b’s and long sleeves for 40 mins in 25+ degrees heat!! Another thing is trying to sit outside in the sun to read for 10mins. “sun no good” and I get herded back inside. Also drinking the wrong water. “Highland no good, Abyssina good” to me water is water and as long as it’s bottled over here I’m not bothered what it is called!!
By Saturday I needed more money. You can not buy Ethiopian Birr at home so I was recommended to bring US Dollars and change them here. There are only two places which will do this at a decent rate, the Hilton Hotel or the Sheraton Hotel. So to the Hilton I went!!
Talk about luxury! This place is a complete contrast to the ‘real’ Addis. You don’t get the sights, smells or sounds like you do on Bole road or in Maganga. It is full of white faces and European or American accents. There are 3 pools, a mini golf course, tennis courts, gym sauna, the lot! It is very nice and it must be nice to be able to afford to stay there but to me I don’t see the point in paying all of that money and traveling all of the distance to sit in a hotel which could be anywhere in the world! The residents probably don’t even set foot outside of the grounds!!
Anyway I enjoyed my hour of luxury and then headed back to camp via Kaldi Coffee, Ethiopian’s answer to Starbucks but at a quarter of the price!.
Training, that’s what I’m here for after all, is going well. Everything so far has just been easy running with some strides thrown in. on Friday the main groups did a 35km tempo run, I joined in the last 10k but ran at my own pace which by the time I did my 10k (42mins dead) I was quite a way behind the rest of the group. The group was clicking off a pace of 4min/km, which is not too bad for a 21mile run at 8500ft altitude. Oh and it was hilly!!
Saturday was just an easy hour. Usual 5.30am start, as it is for all morning runs. Bus ride to Sulutraa, 15mins of stretches, 1 hour easy and the 1hour of circuits on the field with cows and goats – you gotta love Ethiopia!!
Sunday was a track session for the rest of them but just another easy run for me. To use the track we had to get up at 4.30 as it is reserved for national squads during the day so its either early in the morning or late at night! As the group warmed up and started the session the track was in complete darkness. I did 6miles round and round the track with 4 laps of strides thrown in. The others did various sessions from 20x400 to 5x2k. There was about 5 groups all going at once, I don’t know how Getanah kept a track of everyone!!
After training we all got back on the bus, only for everyone to get back off again! This has happened the last few times on the way home from training but whereas previously I have been left sitting on the bus wondering where everyone had gone, this time Martha tapped me on the shoulder to “come come” so off I went. About 10minutes walk later we all filed into a restaurant – we were going for a post session breakfast – take note LD!!
As the menus were all in Amharic I allowed the others to order for me! I was dreading the thought of what I was going to get but I was pleasantly surprised when a plate of bread and honey was put in front of me! Ethiopian honey really is nectar; it is the nicest honey I have ever tasted – think a few jars of it will be coming back to Sunderland with me!! The tea or chai latte as it is known over here, left a lot to be desired. More steamed milk with tea than tea with milk!!
In the evening I went out for another 30mins, or what was meant to be 30mins but turned into 40mins as I got a bit disorientated, not lost, just disorientated!! I had my 1st, and hopefully last, bad experience on this run. As I was heading up to the forest some small boys threw a stone at me. Thankfully it didn’t hit me and they ended up worst off as a passer by who saw what happened gave them a clip around the ear for their troubles!! I suppose it beat the milk bottles which get thrown at you in Sunderland!!
Monday was another easy hour up in Sulutraa. I really love running up there already. The terrain is great although a tad rocky in parts and it is a mixture of nice flat grass and hilly soily paths.
I finish off Monday with another easy 40mins in the forest. This time I knew my bearings but still plotted my start point in my Garmin just in case!! Thankfully I haven’t yet come across any of the Hyenas which live in the forest and apparently come out in the early evening, although I have heard them on a night!!
Well, I hope everyone is fit and well at home and not missing me too much – I know its hard! Good luck to Maxine on her Scottish debut on Saturday – knock ‘em dead girl! And well done to the girls for winning the Signals and to Emma and James on their 10K PB’s.
One last thing, my mobile can make and receive calls and receive texts but I can’t send them, probably a good thing! So if anyone has any breaking gossip please text it through (it is only the price of a normal text!) or even just a friendly hello to brighten my day!

Ethiopia part 1 - Wednesday 18th - Friday 20th

Ethiopia – the birthplace of running – from the barefoot runner Abile Bekila to modern day legends such as Haile Gebrelsalassie and Kennisa Bekele, Ethiopia has produced some of the greatest distance running athletes to have ever graced the roads, track and grass of the world. So here I am in that very land, looking for that extra something which will hopefully help me to follow in the footsteps of this countries sons and daughters.
My “mission” for the next 3.5weeks is to live the life of an Ethiopian athlete, which basically means live, sleep and breathe running! So its train like an Ethiopian, live like and Ethiopian, eat like and Ethiopian!!
Step 1: Train like an Ethiopian. This started on Wednesday morning, after spending 13 hours on Tuesday travelling half way across the world to get here, with an easy 40mins. I stayed at Richards for my first night so off I set UP the hill to the “park”. This isn’t a park as we would know it. Nothing as luxurious as Bushy Park, Lobley Hill or even Barnes Park come to think of it! No, instead a derelict piece of wasteland grassed over with a few goats and cows thrown in for good measure! Think knocked down council estate turfed over with grass and you should get the picture!! At least here the locals use the area to good effect i.e. for exercise, namely running, rather than for a drink den or for burning out stolen cars like they would at home!
I was literally gob smacked at the amount of people running around at 7am! I’m talking literally 100’s. I was feeling quite good in myself and happy with my 8min miles but my face must’ve been telling a different story as I got a lot of shouts of “keep moving”!! I have since found out that this is the park where the national cross country championships are held annually – it gets my seal of approval as a cross country course!. Forget the mud and mountains of Parliament Hills and take a leaf out of the Ethiopians book – flat + firm – not that I am doing anymore major cross countries but if British courses were like this I may be tempted!!
Step 2: Live like an Ethiopian. So, into the camp for stage 2 to begin. There are around 10 other athletes currently staying here plus myself and Susie (Bush). The Ethiopian athletes range in ability from the Olympic men’s marathon bronze medalist (2008) through to female 2.40 marathoners. I would name a few but I don’t want to owe too much money to Morag for name dropping!! Plus I’m not yet sure of all their names!! I think I’ll just call some of them Fred and Bertie!!
The accommodation is very basic to say the least! Our “room” has 3 beds in and that’s all – not even a bedside table or some draws – I am literally living out of my bag for the next 3.5weeks!!
The lives and routine of the athletes is very simple – 5.30am rise, 5.45am on the bus to training, run, back home, lunch, sleep, massage, run, dinner, sleep, repeat!! After just two days of lying around in our room I broke out and went into Bole (town) to use the gym – its training so its not cheating!!.
The gym is fantastic. Loads of free weights and all of the latest Technogym machines. I’d tell you who owns its but Morag might still be reading!! (Clue: I mentioned him right at the beginning!)
Going to into town is an adventure in itself!! To get there requires two “buses”. Nothing like our Stagecoach or Arriva buses at home. More Scooby Doo mystery van!! These buses pick up and drop off anywhere along the road and cost a pricely 1.25 birr per ride (16 birr = 1 pound). I have already found that my very limited, non existent really, Amharic coupled with my lovely mackem accent makes me totally incomprehensible over here!! But at one point trying to get a bus to Maganga the “conductor” thought I was wanting to go to Mexico!! I eventually got to where I wanted to be after a young lad took me by the hand and showed my to the bus I needed!! Just like they would in Sunderland!! Haha!!
In Bole and on your way there, you get a true sense of Ethiopia. One second there is poverty, the next there is luxury. I have never been anywhere else where you would get shacks intermingled in a street full of luxury villas!! For me the sight of young adults strolling along Bole Road (Ethiopia equivalent to Oxford Street) wearing designer clothes and chatting on iPhones and other latest models, whilst passing by bunches of young children begging, really sums up the city to me. That and the fact that everyone runs!!
Step 3: eat like an Ethiopian. I think this is going to be the hardest part of it!!
Indura – a crepe looking bread type food which is very hard to describe in both look and the taste. I have some photos so when I get home will be able to add them to show you all. Justina (Helsop) best described the taste as fizzy! It is definitely an acquired taste and thankfully I do like it – bet that has surprised you mam?!
Indura is served with ‘sauces’ usually a crushed lentil, runny pease pudding type thing, a spicy lentil chilli and potatoes and carrots. I have enjoyed what I have had so far but after eating it three times a day for the last 3 days I am looking forward to a change!! They eat at 12.30 and 7.30 every day – not a minute before, not a minute after. They do have bananas and bread after training but apart from that nothing else. Thankfully I have some snacks with me and I have found the snacks isle at the supermarket!!
So for the runnery people reading so far I have done the following training: Wednesday easy 5, Thursday: easy 8 and easy 6, Friday: easy 10k plus gym (this blog only covers Wednesday – Friday).
3 things I have learnt so far: 1) when Ethiopians say they are running easy, they mean easy – 9 min miles is the norm!! 2) When Gete (Sorry Morag!) shouts, everyone moves. 3) EVERYONE runs in Ethiopia. Take care. Speak soon TTFN!!