Christmas Day 01

Track-tastic

Surrounding Yaya Village, the picturesque area of Sululta is fast developing into Ethiopia’s number one spot for endurance training. Construction is visible everywhere, from hotels, houses and apartments, to training facilities.

Kenenisa Bekele has invested over $1.5 million to built a stunning six-lane all-weather track, just a kilometre down the road from Yaya Village. It has just had its lines painted and is in the final stages of landscaping, with the possibility of being extended to eight lanes to host major competitions in the future.

The track has been constructed with a softer surface ideal for endurance athletes and I was excited to be one of the first ‘ferengi’ (foreigners, as the locals call us) to put it to the test.

Christmas Day provided the perfect opportunity. It was a still and crisp morning, warming quickly with the rising sunshine. Nic set me the workout – 4x4x500m with 30 seconds between 500s and 3 minutes between sets. Looks reasonable on paper but at 2750m of altitude it was not just the location that was breathtaking!

Kevin held the whistle and made sure I was hitting my target times – when I felt that my legs could no longer carry me he reassured me that really they could. As my first full track session since before the London 2012 Olympic Games – five months ago – I am pleased to report it was job done.

I am now a fan of high altitude track training. It certainly takes you to places you do not wish to visit too often, but in the context of Nic’s structured training plan I hope it will provide me with that extra edge!

Yaya Village 01

Yaya African Athletics Village

To the north of Addis Ababa, over the Entoto Hills and in the area of Sululta lies the Yaya African Athletics Village, which has been my home for the past six weeks. In Amharic, ‘Yaya’ means happy, and Yaya Village is certainly that.

Established by Joseph Kibur in collaboration with Haile Gebrselassie, Yaya Village provides the key facilities required for athletic performance whether you are elite, an aspiring athlete or recreational runner.

Comfortable rooms, fresh organic food, a well-equipped gym and sauna, a beautiful garden for relaxation, a gravel track and training loop, pace makers and running guides to show you the way and ensure that you are training hard enough!

But most important is the location. Situated at an altitude of 2750m, Sululta offers mile upon mile of great running terrain – lush eucalyptus forests, freshly scythed fields at this time of year, hills of every length, surface and gradient, vast open expanses of grass for training at speed. Most athletes in Addis Ababa come to Sululta on at least a weekly basis and it is a favourite amongst some of the country’s greatest, whether you are a Dibaba or a Bekele.

www.yayavillage.com

View over Addis Ababa 01

Welcome to Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa or ‘new flower’ is the capital city of Ethiopia and possibly the largest endurance running hub in the World!

Founded in the late 1880s by Emperor Menelik II, the city centre lies at an altitude of 2700m and rises over 3000m in the Entoto Hills to the north. At sunrise the views from Entoto are truly spectacular and I cannot think of a more inspirational place to run.

If you are a young Ethiopian showing athletic ability you are sure to find your way to Addis Ababa. There must be over 2000 athletes living and training in the city in association with a coach, training group or club.

In the city there are a few training facilities including the National Stadium which hosts all major track championships and the race course at Jan Meda, where cross country selection races are held. In the countryside surrounding the city you will find most of the action as there are endless training locations including the Entoto Hills, Sabata, Sandafa, Ararat and Sululta, just to name a few. Sululta is the area where I am staying and more on that later. But the reality is, get out of the city and you can basically run anywhere!