Well, getting to meet the Ladies' Winner was cool...
Is that 'Ladies' Winner' in the sense of 'ran the fastest time' or 'snagged Eggy'?
Well done Alexander, Orbutt and Jimbob on the PBs and anyone else who was out there racing today (Keyser Suze?). Also MM on beating the 60 min barrier - it's all in the mind, you know.
I've sorted out my plan for the Ladybower 35 today. The good news is that my peak mileage week coincides with ITLR, and my longest run with the IoM marathon (might need to add a bit on to that one). The bad news is that I'm supposed to be doing 35 miles a week next week, which is some way off what I've been doing over the past few weeks. . Might work up to that gradually.
Just for you DV - Ethiopian speciality. Don't know what it was called, but it was grilled strips of beef served up in a pot with charcoal underneath, and sprinkled with onion and chillis. And it was just fabulous.
The Every One races are organized in Hawassa (south of Addis Ababa) jointly by the Great Run people (Nova), Haile Gabreselassie’s organization, and a group of aid agencies including Save the Children. The Every One campaign aims to improve under-5 mortality rates, which although still awful in Ethiopia are improving greatly.
There were three races – the elite half marathon (and it was an elite race – over 100 runners, and the first man finished in around 1:02); a non-elite half marathon (the one I did) which was relatively small, and consisted mostly of overseas club runners who had travelled there to do it, and a few of the slower locals; and the big race, a 7k of over 2,000 people, mostly locals and Westerners living and working in Ethiopia.
The mass half started at 6:30 to avoid the heat. It was a fairly flat course, round the town and down to the lake. The locals were out in force to support, especially the small children, who were an absolute joy to high-five, as they just fell about laughing. The first lap was enlivened by a flock of marabou storks, which are large, and carnivorous, and studied us with beady eyes.
I was aiming for 8:10 pace and was comfortably within that to start with. Around 4 miles I went through a bad patch as it started to warm up, and I was doubting whether I could keep it going for another 17 miles. About half an hour later I remembered that a half marathon is 21km, not 21 miles (seriously – I can only blame it on the fact that I was up very early). On the second lap we were overtaken by the elites (who started after us), which was a fantastic sight – it’s quite something to see that many top class runners close up, even if they did disappear rapidly out of sight. I was so busy watching them I almost fell over a goat that had decided to cross the road. Sadly, I missed the baboon that apparently put in an appearance at one point.
The last few miles were grim. No one particular issue – just a combination of slightly warmer than I was used to (low 20’s), altitude (1,700m), poor pacing, and the fact that my stomach had been feeling a bit fragile so I didn’t eat any of my shotbloks. It literally felt like the second half of a marathon – in the (uphill) final stretch I felt worse than I did finishing Paris. Hence my time of 1:55 which was around 10 minutes off where I should have been. At one point I was third lady (I will treasure for ever the moment one of the marshalls shouted that to me) but in the end I came in 8th. There were vultures circling over the finish line, but as no one was listed in the results as ‘DNF – eaten’ I can only assume they didn’t land.
Our event passes gave us access to the finish area, so we got to meet the winners, and Haile, who is, as everyone says, a lovely man (and a funky dancer). And the 7k was something to see, especially the warmup.
I really recommend the race – or any of the other races they organize (there’s a big 10k in Addis later this year, and a full marathon in Hawassa in November, although I think that would be a bit of a challenge).
Right, as promised, here’s 'what I did on my holidays'. Then, I promise, I'll shut up. I'll do this as two posts – one on general experiences of Ethiopia, and the race report separately.
As a general comment, it’s a great country and I am definitely planning to go back.
Security – if you read the Foreign Office advice on the country, you’d never set foot in it, and if you did, you’d never come out from under the bed. We were in Addis Ababa, and further south in a lakeside town called Hawassa. In neither of these places did I feel concerned for my safety. In Addis you take the usual precautions of any big city, and it is very crowded and chaotic, but people generally get on with their own business and don’t pay any attention to you. That said, I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of the police – we did witness a fight in the street which they dealt with by beating the crap out of one of the perpetrators, so it pays to keep your wits about you.
Countryside – much greener than I expected, especially the eucalyptus forests above Addis, where the runners go to train (at 10,000 feet). We had a run up there one morning, and it was just beautiful. Very atmospheric too – you could smell woodsmoke and incense from the villages, and hear the Orthodox priests doing the call to prayer in the distance. Running at that altitude is interesting – you do notice the lack of air. Travel was a bit hair-raising – the concept of sticking to one side of the road seems to be optional, especially for the livestock. More than once our driver had to swerve across the road to avoid donkeys, goats and cows – and more than once we saw a dead cow on the road with an overturned lorry beside it.
Food – excellent, as long as you like chillis (which I do). You very quickly learn that small green objects in your food are always chillis, and hot ones too. The local bread (injera), which is not unlike rolled up foam rubber, is interesting, and very good for you (full of iron). And I came back laden with coffee. How can you not like a country whose main exports are coffee and flowers? I ate everything and tried lots of local stuff, but I did stick to bottled water and beer – the one person in our group who did get sick had had a G&T with ice in it, which was a mistake.
Weather – it was supposed to be the dry season but the rains arrived early, which meant massive and spectacular thunderstorms. It was never very hot – only up to about mid 20s, mostly because of the altitude.
Running – From the moment I noticed the guy in front of me at check in at Heathrow with a 10k trophy from some race in the States, I knew we were going to a runners’ country. It’s very much the way to success for many people there, but being a fast runner is no guarantee of riches. We spoke to the guide in one of the churches, and it turns out he’s an international cross country champion and 29 minute 10k runner (in fact we spent rather more time discussing his 4-hours-a-day training regime than the paintings in the church we were supposed to be looking at). But he was struggling to make ends meet, and as far as we could tell was being supported only by the church.
There's no getting away from the fact that it's a very poor country, but it's a fascinating one with an interesting history (not least its relationship with Britain, and Italy). Next time I'd like to see some of the Highlands, and more of the wildlife, and go to the areas where the runners train.
DV - it sounds like Mrs DV is having as rough a time of it as Bradley Wiggins . Good to hear she's still having fun.
Good luck in the parkrun YM - and to Audrey, Eggy and ATM and anyone else who's racing today. And particular good luck to Mrs Eggy when she gets to meet Eggy's imaginary friends for the first time .
Interestingly DLR I'm also O- and have a tendency to keel over after giving blood too. I nearly passed out in a lecture once as a student , much to the alarm of the lecturer. But I can't donate any more for a while because of where I've been travelling. Although this conversation has reminded me I must sign up for the organ donor register.