Hitting the single track in Arizona

There is possibly no other place I would rather run than along a peacefully scenic, rolling and slightly technical single track trail.

In and out, up and down, round and round, I call it ‘roller coaster’ running. It reminds me of childhood trips to a local theme park; the roller coaster would wind its way up the steep incline, the anticipation building, before gravity took over and the cart descended at speed hurtling round the banked curves.

Running is somewhat different, strength and control is required to handle the descents, the rises sap your every energy and sometimes you find yourself hoping that there is a flat section at the top to enable you to recover. It is when I can run ten miles on single track at pace that I know I am truly fit, not a gauge that is normally used!

Here in Flagstaff, Arizona, there is an abundance of single track trail. Such variety including expansive pine forest trails, rocky mountain paths, wildflower meadows, sandy sections and deep bottomed canyons. It really is a great spot for people who enjoy outdoor sports and lying at over 2000 metres elevation you will undoubtedly get fit!


Training with the Girls the Ethiopian Way

Don’t they say ‘train with the best to become the best’ (you can be)?

It is no coincidence that the 5000m, 10000m and marathon were all won by Ethiopian women at the London 2012 Olympic Games and that just four months thereafter I returned to their wondrous country to begin the next Olympic cycle!

Training at 2800m altitude is far from straightforward. It takes a huge investment in time and patience to reap the rewards, it is by no means a linear process, training miles logged now may take months or years to be fully realised.

But I have never been one for instantaneous success even if it did stray my way. I enjoy the journey, the process, working out what works and what does not, discovering how to get the very best out of my body in the long run.

My first time returning to Ethiopia post-Olympics was an adventure but a tough one! Rediscovering the trails following a couple of years of us being apart, coming to the country as a different athlete with new training expectations and a higher level of fitness. I struggled at times but generally took it well within my stride, embracing the voyage of discovery.

Second time round and my adaptation to altitude was easier, a winter later and I was able to put in a large block of consistent running, often reaching steady run paces with which I would not be too disappointed at sea level. Threshold running was always going to be difficult but I would just have to accept that!

Now onto my fourth trip and I can jump straight into training without problem. The altitude is always going to be felt but I am now ready to fully embrace training the ‘Ethiopian Way’. I have been welcomed whole-heartedly to train with a wonderful group of athletes, with their camaraderie and capability in training I am excited to see how far I can progress…

I hope I can help them, just a little, to be their best also!


A day of training

Who would be able to resist running at speed on the pristine pitches that Stellenbosch have to offer?

After a big training block in Ethiopia it was time to float and flow over the soft grass with additional oxygen in the lungs, the early morning rays of sunshine warming the skin and, as always, joy in the heart.

Almost two months have passed since then, but looking back energises me and excites me for a return visit.