Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Connecting with a distance running incarnation

As announced in my previous post, I did woke up early to get to Meskal Square by 5:45 am. My hotel is only 3 kilometers away from the city landmark and the road is paved (which is not the case for many nearby roads) but it was pitch dark and difficult to see the holes in the pavement or sidewalk. The sky was full of bright stars but that was not helping. When I reached the plaza, I saw a few runners gathering indeed and asked one if there was some groups going out for a run. His English was very approximate and he shown me the benches forming an amphitheater around the plaza. Basically you run one length of the bench then move one step up and come back, and so on for 30 or so times. He shown one side was for the 5,000 (meters) and the other for the 10,000. And he invited me to follow him on the 5,000 side.

It was still very dark and the "benches" made of irregular dirt with holes and rocks. I kept my eyes down and fixed on my "personal trainer"'s shoes. He was running as smooth and light as the distance running elites. He didn't seem to pay attention to me except when pointing his finger on larger holes or rocks. It was a comfortable pace. I wish I could upload an image with the trace of my Garmin to show you the convoluted run which came to a total of 4,000 meters actually. There were about 50 other runners going back and forth with us, mostly men.

After that we did a few 200m sprints along the entire plaza and that is when I discovered that he was really really fast. After a few of them, I asked him what is his main distance and, with modesty, he replied with something which says long: he finished third at an international half-marathon in London recently in 1 hour and 1 minute which is world class. He accompanied me back to my hotel, with a friend of his, so we could exchange emails. He is definitely interested in learning more about running opportunities overseas. His English was not permitting a lot of exchange but we planned on meeting again tomorrow morning so he can give me his resume.

Back to my hotel room, searching his name (Mengsitu Abebe), I actually found that a documentary on distance running just got released this month in the UK, which includes Mengsitu. See http://www.theroadtobeijing.co.uk/documentary.htm. It was particularly moving to learn from this website that Mengsitu was a former goat herder as I see these herders from my hotel room.

This morning I also had breakfast with Birt who is joining our group. Birt has worked with Joseph (the co-founder of The World Family with Emebet) for 2 years. He lives in Palo Alto and arrived here on the 17th which gave him some time to visit many places in the city looking to buy supplies and wood to build looms at the village. And there is not such thing as Home Depot or Lowe's, so everything is complicated and takes a lot of time (yes, requires patience, cf my previous post...). We were joined by Teddy, the local representative of The World Family, who will be our interpret during our two weeks in Gara Dima and Metehara.

And now for the scoop on the weather side: it is raining in Gara Dima this afternoon! Not pouring rain but enough to fix the dust. As for the pollution it is actually pretty bad and, between the high elevation (2,300m - 7,550ft) and the chilly temperatures this morning, my throat is bothering me. Now looking very much forward seeing the rest of the family and the group landing at Bole Airport tomorrow morning so we can move to Metehara on Thursday!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Some of the parents are reading your postings -- great fun! Glad you arrived safely, just heard that the rest of team did too, hope all bags made it. What's the temp during the day? Pollution like LA, Beijing, worse?
Regards, Pearl