Saturday, 4 April 2009

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!!



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