Michael Crawley is one of our sponsored athletes, and focuses primarily on the roads. He is also an ESRC-funded PhD student at Edinburgh University, studying the culture of long-distance running in Ethiopia. Over the next few months he will be living and training in Ethiopia, and learning one of the main languages used there, Amharic. He will be writing about his experiences of training in various locations around the city with different groups of athletes, and about trying to turn himself into a better runner in the process.
On the 19th of April this year I ran a surprisingly according-to-plan first (completed) marathon in Manchester in 2.19.36. I approached the distance with more trepidation than I did my first marathon in Frankfurt, where the wheels came off big time at 30km, and followed my coach’s advice to ‘treat the first 20 miles like a long Sunday run, not a race’. This is an approach I’d definitely recommend; if you’re feeling tired at 18 miles you have to remind yourself that it’s not OK to be tired before the race has even started. I faded a bit in the last couple of miles, but with no dramatic slow-down I was pleased with the time, especially as the build-up had been relatively conservative to protect my injury prone (more of that in just a moment) body. I went for a few pints with my sister and it wasn’t long before I was thinking ‘I’m pretty sure I can run a couple of minutes quicker than that’. The race had followed my first Scotland vest and my first sub-50 minute (49.37) ten miler, and I was feeling confident of running sub-30 for 10km on my return to Manchester three weeks after the marathon.
I had a good few days of very light jogging after the race, but when I resumed something that more accurately resembled actual running I had the same sort of tightness in my lower back and hip that I’d suffered from almost exactly a year earlier when I’d tried to train for London. Unfortunately, that has taken far longer (a good three months) to clear up, and I’ve built things up very slowly since being able to run pain free again. Given that it was going to take a while to get race fit anyway, and that I was going to Ethiopia for three months in September, the important thing was to let my hip and back return to normal and do nothing drastic running wise (and go on several holidays).
I’m in Ethiopia now though, and though the promised end of the rainy season hasn’t quite come, it’s time for three months of serious running. I arrived at 2 o’clock this morning via Paris and Nairobi, and took a taxi to my friend Benoit’s place. The taxi driver and I, using a combination of broken Amharic and English, managed to negotiate some fairly cryptic (and alarming) directions (‘there is a small street going down to a smaller bridge, and then up, straight and then two curves on the left, with speed bumps in between. After the second speed bump, keep going up the rocky road, and then leave the road to Lideta Mariam church by turning left on the second paved street. So when you pass the second bump, beware and tell him to take the second street. Go some three hundred metres, then the street goes a little bit down: turn right, and then left again but only for a few metres. Don’t leave the taxi until you reach our gate as there are hyenas hanging about at night’).
I’ve given myself a day to acclimatise a bit and sleep a lot, and I’m looking forward to my first run and my first Amharic lesson of the trip tomorrow. I’m hoping that starting from a relative lack of fitness means that I’ll be both getting gradually fitter and gradually more acclimatised over the next few weeks which should feel good. Hopefully I’ll be able to find some people to train with in Jan Meda in the morning. Given that it’s inadvisable to run in the forest alone at the moment because of the hyenas, I have an extra incentive to learn Amharic and make some friends!
I’ll be blogging every couple of weeks during my trip, which will include running with Ron in the Great Ethiopian run.