West Shewa, Ethiopia
Training camps vary. One of the many points of comparison for the elite athletes here is other camps, and what they offer. So Rejean is a refugee from Florida, where his training partners tend to go-and Canadian marathoning is in good shape, with a couple of 2:10ers at the front. He and Julia were both talking about , in the States. Colleagues of Andreas and Morten have spent time in Iran, of all places, and Andreas was in Sierra Nevada before the Olympics last year.
But I can talk about this one. The staff are friendly, if a little obsessed with the ticket system. Although reception check if you are full board, suggesting it is possible to stay here without all meals, all the athletes are here for the lot. You’re allowed three bottles of water a day, along with a mango juice at breakfast and some hot drinks. Breakfast is pretty much unlimited in quantity, albeit from a limited and mostly eggbound selection. Omelettes or other egg sit next to French toast, pancakes and waffles. Lunch and dinner come from the same menu, salad or soup to start, then pasta, pizza, curry, stir fry or grilled chicken or fish. Fairly varied, but paling after a few weeks. Garlic is popular, which is part of how I can tell if my stomach is about to revolt, as I can still taste lunch at dinner and beyond. Other drinks are extra, and everything bar breakfast has to be signed for-we think to show the staff are honest more than for any other reason, but of course we are then billed for extra. It makes the restaurant more a canteen with service than a restaurant, as the question “would you like anything else?” isn’t asked. Why would you want extra?
Charmingly, they only need a couple of goes to get your name, which most of us are asked to write down to make sure-and that’s between the lot of them, so they must be comparing notes-and then you are Mr John, Miss Julia and so on for the duration. That also appears on the slips you sign, for good measure. Knowing his name did prompt Biruk, who seems senior but may just have senior style grumpiness and a better waistcoat, to tell Andreas that it was just like “that man in Norway, that nutter who killed people on the island”, and comment on him for a while, which was entertaining.
The village has created a lot of jobs, a fleet of gardeners as the grass needs lots of attention to keep weeds off, three to cover reception, a couple of managers, trainer, cooks and at least 8 waiting staff. Many live in Addis rather than locally, but I guess jobs are much prized and so go to whoever has the best English rather than who is closest. Not that anyone is fluent, but they all have more than is immediately apparent-one of the waitresses has been very quiet, then over the last couple of days was checking whether I’d been at breakfast, then today laughing, I think, that I was always sitting outside to eat. I’m English, I said, this is warm.
And it is. Storms are back with us. Heard one in the distance yesterday, today’s made for some heavy rain for 30min or so.
Training, pah. I’m either paying for the reps yesterday, or for the second run-just as I thought I might be able to step up not just training twice but making both a run, even if the second was short. Back of my left leg had seized up, which might write off tomorrow, too. Perhaps if I can fit in one more long run at the weekend then I’ll be ready regardless, but it does detract from the idea of having two big weeks out here.
Whatever the truth of that, I’m booked on the parkrun Poland trip scheduled for the week after the marathon, and nothing short of complete bodily meltdown can spoil that.
Summary: 29, 5k, ow. The God Delusion, Dawkins, a War of Gifts, Scott Card, Worth Dying For, Child.