Ethiopian landscape

The landscape is different now

Ten months have passed since I was last in Ethiopia. The dry ‘winter’ season then was waning; I watched the crops grow from tiny leafy green stalks in to majestic golden sheaths abundant in spikelets, almost as tall a man and oscillating like pendula in the wind.

As the weeks rolled on the crops were harvested, the wheat separated from the chaff in both ceremonial and celebratory manner. The grasses were cut leaving the valleys matted in vibrant yellow, the contrasting red iron-rich soil created dust balls under my running feet, the meandering rivers were an easy crossing as they uncovered their rocky bed.

A long rainy summer season on and the landscape here is now lush and green.

A patchwork of colour with industrious hillside communities tending the fields and preparing for the coming months. The valleys once passable from every direction are covered in soft moist grassland with distinct small pathways only maintained by the locals travelling toward town and children skipping happily to school. They are not quite in the same place as before, I have to rediscover the intricacies of my running playground and re-link trails both old and new.

Knowing the key markers and contours of the landscape this is no problem and there is so much joy in exploration, but hang on a sec greater changes have also occurred? New dirt roads and tracks have been built, pylons errected, houses and mud huts constructed where there once were none.

Addis is a booming African city with a rapidly growing GDP and even over here, to the north of the city the landscape is in flux.

Development is fast, almost as fast as the runners!


Sunsets in Stellenbosch

From Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Cape Town, South Africa. Well, Stellenbosch to be more precise – nestled in the Cape Winelands between the Simonsberg, Drakenstein, Jonkershoek and Stellenbosch mountains, it is a lively town of sunshine and sport!

I always relish the opportunity to return to this spot, where I was based over the winter of 2007/2008. Friendships and relationships formed back then have played an important part in my journey as an athlete as well as in defining my path in life.

It is such a vibrant place – bright white Cape Dutch style thatched houses set amongst lush green fynbos and bountiful vineyards, all against the backdrop of cloudless blue skies. The sun rises before six and the athletic rise well before then! Scores of road cyclists and mountain bikers hit the roads and trails before first light, the 50 metre outdoor pool is awash with swimmers, the rugby boys are already in the gym lifting weights and runners are to be found everywhere. This repeats itself towards the end of the day once the temperatures have dropped and some freshness has returned to the air before sunset.

It is a sporty place, but why am I really here exactly? Stellenbosch and Cape Town offer a wealth of expertise when it comes to elite sport and for a short period following a big block of training at altitude it is great to come down to sea level and to tap into some of those services and knowledge.

It gives me the opportunity to stay at the new purpose built facility, the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport, which was set up by friends who have followed my progression and are keen to assist with my future athletic development.

So, working hard on my strength, biomechanics, getting good speed into my legs, touching base with the likes of Elana Meyer and Tim Noakes, and stockpiling sunshine and warmth ready to fly back to the UK!



A balmy summer evening with UNUM

How time flies. Over a month has past since I spent a balmy summer evening with UNUM at their head office in Milton Court to the west of Dorking. UNUM are one of the UK’s leading financial protection insurers; also a supporter of one of the UK’s leading endurance runners!

I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet some of UNUM’s employees and to take part in their 5K charity fun run. Everyone was full of energy and enthusiasm even after a hard day at work, but with an office nestled in the tranquil green setting of the Surrey Hills I can see why. It was the perfect evening, almost a little hot if I dare say it, and off we went. Drinks, snacks and awards followed and I got round to chatting with most. I really look forward to the next event and hope my encouragement will see some further personal best times broken!