West Shewa, Ethiopia
After four tough days, and building to my largest mileage week ever-ahead even of last year’s longest, when I slotted two long runs into one week-I had Friday and Saturday booked as quiet days, with the tentative idea of fitting in a quicker 5k on Saturday, as parkrun has never interfered with a Sunday long run.
Friday was very gentle, if sad as Rejean and Chris both left. I couldn’t quite understand why I was that sad at first, as I was perfectly happy on my own for the first few days, but we’ve had nearly three weeks to bond since then. I’d grown used to us all rolling in to breakfast to swap running tales, or to dinner at different times. I sat in reception while they said their goodbyes, so as to catch them at the last and once they’d gone the evening receptionist-who’d been in the minibus that collected me from the airport and therefore the first to greet me-wanted to make sure I was okay. He was also concerned that I got enough social time-had I been to Bole, did I like dancing, and so on. “Don’t be alone” was his final instruction, there’s a motto.
Today dawned with more bright sunshine. Last weekend’s cooler weather and storms are just a memory, with cloudless skies and a high of 27 all this week. I’ll have to get up early for my long run tomorrow, or I’ll be in real trouble.
Not having slept so well last night, I postponed my run to the evening and just went for breakfast. I seem to have a sleep window around 10, but if I miss it then I’m awake till after 12. After a day of food, chatting with the Great Danes, reading and a snooze, I finally got out at 5.30, for what proved to be the über-Ethiopian run:
I’m in my kit, racing flats on for a change, and I stroll up the drive to the exit. It’s what people seem to do, as though running round camp is rude. The old security guard is on the gate, albeit in his plain clothes disguise, and gives me the usual thumbs up. The on duty security guard is throwing a stone at one last rangy cow to ged it orf moi land, while the rest of the herd mooch out into the road. I have 10 seconds of chicken with one cow on the path before letting it win.
Crossing the road I break into a run. This is always the moment of truth-how are my legs? Good, as it turns out, really good, and I stay on the road for 300m so as not to spoil it by tripping on a rock. As I believe the young folk call it.
I turn off the road onto a mud track. The sunny days have totally removed the stormy puddles that were in the way. Two very young girls are walking towards me, the second waving, with a “hello, welcome”. I run on, diving into the trees to see if I can find the main track to satellite field. The small mosque next to the primary school is broadcasting its usual Sunday call to prayer, which sounds to me like old school horse racing commentary.
The first mile, without my pushing, is 7.32. Cheered, I run through the trees like a rugby back avoiding he opposition-left, right, surge, left, right. Hitting the main track the Danish 800m and 10k champions pass with a wave, while just behind them an older local is keeping pace, fully dressed, and gives me a toothy wave.
Second mile is 7.52. This is good! I skirt the ploughed field next to the satellite installation, and the guards there grin as I pass. I only need another mile in the field to make it a 5, so do a small loop, coming back up the hill to jog through the 10, 20 and 50% finished houses that stand like a ww2 diorama. Back on the track again and two even smaller children, perhaps brother and sister, run toward me. The boy’s first, with arms outstretched. I consider picking him up, but the run’s going too well and I settle for a mid-five, with the same for his sister. She turns and follows, answering my “good running” with a stream of Amharic, then dropping off with a last exhortation of encouragement. Off to my right now is the second football game I’ve seen, and a redundant goalkeeper waves, with my answering wave and thumbs up getting another “hello, welcome!” I’ve not had one before, today the world is full of them. Third mile is under 8, and I resolve that they all will be, as the Olympic 1500 champion jogs past, raising eyebrows in recognition. He’s a bit cooler than the others. A local family walk past. Some people greet, some wait to be greeted, and a wave gets a chorus of smiles and a shout of encouragement. Suleiman, who missed the Olympics but is in shape and looking good for the worlds, grins as he jogs by. He trains with Makhloufi, but would only be human if he hadn’t mentally painted a target on his back. His pb is quicker, I think.
One last grin at a local gets a friendly “hi” and I’m on to the road again. I push it just a little to keep the pace up, finishing the run on the camp track-ooh, you can race on me any time-with a 7.30 mile. I walk round the trail for 5 minutes with some lunges and gate-openers (as lovely physio calls them), while a couple of Yaya girls watch, wondering what on earth I’m doing.
That was almost as quick, without pushing, as the tempo run on Thursday, when I definitely was. If this points to a general increase in fitness, then it has timed itself well. Now *that* was a lovely run in every way possible.
Postscript: I finish with a bath, typing this as I luxuriate. Done with today’s entry, I dip my head to soak as I reach out to put the iPod on the closed loo seat. Only it’s not closed. I manage to close my fingers almost as they open, and soggypod2013 is over before it has begun.
Quote “You cannot be absolutely dumb when you live with a person unless you are an inhabitant of the North of England or the State of Maine.” Ford, The Good Soldier.
Summary: Friday 20:26, 3.98k, Saturday 38:52, 8.15k; books, Anna Karenina, The Good Soldier, Ford Madox Ford.