The history of a city and the story of a race

1602? Course de L’Escalade?

From a young age I was made aware of the running race staged though the cobbled streets of the Old City of Geneva, through the stories told by my uncle from his running exploits, but little did I know of what it stood for and what the celebration was all about.

Arriving in Geneva to race it did not take long to realise the significance of the run. Fully embraced by 35,000 participants not including the scores of supporters, who all enjoy and create an atmospheric weekend of events; the largest running race in Switzerland.

Amongst the sound of ringing cowbells and canon-fire, waves of enthusiastic runners of all ages took to the streets of the city, testing themselves against each other, against the steep rises and descents, twists and turns and cobbles of the historic centre.

The joy and celebration was all there to be seen. For many it was not possible to compete at full speed due to the sheer volume of runners channelled along the narrow racecourse, but it was that same big body of runners who created the spirit of the day. The coming together of all ages, sharing the experience of running through the beloved city, celebrating the history of Geneva and how much can be achieved in unity.

After all L’Escalade celebrates the defeat of the surprise attack on the city by troops sent by Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy, during the night of 11 December 1602. According to Genevois legend, everybody worked together, including an enterprising lady (Mère Royaume) who seized a large cauldron of boiling hot vegetable soup and poured it on soldiers climbing up the walls of the city!

L’Escalade celebrations include a large marmite (cauldron) made of chocolate and filled with marzipan vegetables and candies wrapped in the Geneva colours of red and gold. With such treats on offer no wonder everybody wants to partake.

To race within this atmosphere and a truly cultural occasion is just pure fun!


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!



Great Ethiopian Run

What a day!

I have witnessed the Great Ethiopian Run on three occasions now yet every time I am left amazed, inspired, speechless at the spectacle of Africa’s largest road race. A sea of colour, 40,000 runners in carnival atmosphere celebrating the joy of running as well as the strength and solidarity of the Ethiopian nation.

This time I choose not to compete, instead I left my warm bed at Yaya Village in the early hours and ran over the Entoto Mountain in to Addis Ababa. A stunning 25 kilometres of uphill, some scramble, and flowingly fast descent to finish off a big training week just shy of 100 miles.

There to greet me at the event finish area was Haile Gebreselassie, somewhat astonished by my choice of long run, and together with a large host of well know Ethiopian athletes and VIP guests we cheered in the leading runners as well as the mass of masses!

Stockport Harriers were the club chosen by Nova International to experience this year’s race and they did themselves proud. Not only in the event itself but also throughout the preceding days when I took them into the landscape surrounding Yaya Village to run the ‘Ethiopian way’. It was a pleasure to spend time with them and I hope the few days will help inspire them to future successes.

With the race done it was, of course, time to celebrate. The renown post-run gathering at Haile’s house was a time to relax, share stories and experiences as well as celebrate everything Ethiopian – food, drink, dance and all.

Congratulations to the Great Ethiopian Run team, may the event continue from strength to strength.