The long run

The long run
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Sunday is long run day, and having had a rest yesterday I had no excuses. I somehow managed to miss my Canadian friend this morning – so much for yesterday’s nerves – so hit the road on my own at 8.00. I had missed last week’s long run altogether, thanks to a bug or vaccination side effects, and it was meant to be my first 20 miler, so I wanted this to be a good one. But I couldn’t decide what would count as good – my main enemy is always the sense of hope, as I’m very good at spotting the downside of, say, an injury but still hoping for a miraculous cure. So it is with my long runs; I knew I’d not be able to make it to 20 miles today, and yet still hoped to get close. Or at least to run for an equivalent time.

The enemy of a well carried-out plan, of course, is a vague and uncertain plan. Plenty of time when out on a run to feel good, feel tired, feel slow, and change ideas accordingly. In my defence, I’m still only 4 days in and adjusting, so it made sense not to bite off more than I could chew. About 30 minutes in, I’d more or less decided that I’d run for around an hour then turn round, and try to tack a bit on the end to make it something longer than two hours, running to time rather than distance, albeit probably not for the 2.5 hours 20 miles would take me in the UK.

All that remained, then, was the scenery and conditions. At that time it’s pretty cool. Definitely shorts and t-shirt weather for a run, but it felt good if occasionally a little warm as time went by and the sun came out. Plenty of cloud cover early on definitely helped. I ran along the road through Sululta. I suspect I found the centre of the town…village? and there are a few hotels further up the road, though I’m not sure who they cater to. There are also plenty of large industrial or farming type buildings, though I couldn’t tell if they were in use or not. Goats and cows graze freely by the side of the road, with the cows totally ignoring me and the goats having an entertaining habit of stopping dead and looking sideways with a “do you think he saw us?” style. Yes, I see you, goat, but I have no time to stop now. At about 3 miles a runner came yomping past, looking comfortable, and disappeared into the distance, but that exhibition of relative excellence didn’t stop every other person grinning and saying something that sounded encouraging. I passed another primary school further down the road where a PA seemed to be broadcasting a call to prayer, though maybe it’s just entertainment for the animals.

At abut 6.5 miles, and 55 minutes, I turned round, and this time used the road more than the dirt track. The minibuses and lorries that sail along use their horns liberally, which is something to get used to, but then they have to, in an attempt to encourage pedestrians and animals to hurry out of the way. During my trip up from the airport it seemed the idea was to coordinate as many near things as possible, with pedestrians speeding up slightly and the traffic moving over slightly in order to fan people’s ears with the wing mirrors in passing. Nothing that particularly worried me, I should say, though I let discretion, in the form of stepping off the road, be the better part of valour whenever it looked tight.

All in all, a ragged run, but when I finished, with a last mile round the camp’s dirt track, I was spent. A lovely hill down – just as the other runner was embarrassing me – had somehow turned into a horrible grind up on the way back, which meant my mile times varied between 7:50 and 10:05, which I’m just not used to. A solid 15 miles, but it had taken the time of 18 back home. The fact that afterwards I had to sit still for a while before my breathing returned to normal shows what the altitude is doing to me, though, and The Canadian confirmed that his run had also been “slow” whilst generously not going into specifics.

Stats: 2:14:45 24.35k. Legs tired. Body tired. Sitting in the sunshine reflecting, even more enjoyable than usual. Book; Lee Child, Die Trying.

The dirt track in Sululta
The dirt track in Sululta.

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