It’s a good sign to look forward to breakfast, lunch or dinner in a foreign country.
Most mornings I wake up at 5:45, before dawn, slip out of bed, crawl underneath my mosquito net and put on my running clothes. I’ve acclimatised now, so most mornings I can feel the cold, maybe around 10 or 12 degrees, so I put on tights, a long sleeve, and jacket and hat. Michael usually joins for the early AM runs, so we walk down the drive-way, to the road junction where we meet our friends. Simon and I have done every run together since I arrived. John doesn’t live that far away, but he doesn’t like jogging in general so he never runs early with us. Abraham used to meet us in the mornings, but since school started he had to move out of the school residences and into another compound about 2.5 kms away, so meeting us at 6am is difficult for him.
Our 6am runs are always baby easy. We trot for 40 to 50min usually. The first 15 to 20min has to be run slowly out of necessity- it’s always too dark to see well, and when the sun starts to rise we keep it slow to let the body breathe. After the run, sometimes I do strides and exercises, as do the guys, but it really depends on the proximity of a workout or race. When we finish we talk and stretch for a while, planning out the day- more runs or visits or relaxing together with some tea and mandazi (fried dough like a doughnut). After I walk home, I immediately get out of my running clothes, change into sweats and a sweater and enjoy my favorite part of the day, sitting in the kitchen by the fire, talking with the children and mother Juliana, sipping away at my morning tea and eating delicious, precious, peanut butter on toast. The kids and Juliana love the peanut butter and bread that Michael and I eat, so it disappears fast. A normal jar of peanut butter disappears in 3-4 days (hahaha).
One of my responsibilities now is to walk my four year old shadow named Sandra to school. Today she brought a children’s book about Tarzan to school, and a pencil. Her laugh and constant smile is infectious; she tends to brighten rooms as soon as she enters.
If it is a workout day we do a second run at 10am. This is the workout. Mondays is hill work. At home I despise hill work; I’ve always felt it has been my weakness. I know that that means I should work on it, and getting better at running hills equals getting stronger in general, but I just get nervous about committing to the pain I know is coming. At 9:30 sharp we meet the group of guys that train with us, Simon, John and Abraham, along with a few other dudes that don’t live too far away. We jog along a single track path, part footpath, probably part cattle path. We descend into a steep valley, picking our way down boulder strewn cliffs. The views are amazing. We run through the valley, to get to the other side where the hill work is done. We run single file the entire time. We run by small farms where people are outside stopping their work to look up and watch us run by, especially the two Mzungus. They wave, and probably ask how it is that Mzungus are running with our Kenyan friends. They say that they are lucky.
We arrive at the hill.
The rest of the guys from the training group are there. Mid-distance guys and longer 10k dudes too. There’s a range of talent in the group, from high level international athletes to up-coming athletes. It’s a fast group of dudes. The range gets extended slightly at the bottom, with the addition of Michael and I. Normally I can mix it up with 2 or 3 of the bottom guys of the group, but hill work is a different beast for me. The workout is 20 reps or 30mins of running up and jogging down a 100m~ or so stretch of steep hill. The leaders take off like a shot, almost all out. I try to keep myself in check but the group is chugging along, and I want to keep my spot. Climb after climb we roll them out. The group starts to string out, I can run up at their pace, but my recovery jog down has to be a lot slower, so I lose touch. The work gets done, we all smile and laugh together while putting our trainers and suits back on. To finish, we roll out 7x 30:30s, 30 second strides with 30s recovery, no problem. We walk back through the valley, along a rocky footpath. It’s a tiring hike home. I get home, wash, change, eat a boiled egg, drink some milk tea and take a nap.
Lunch is around 1:30, I set my watch, wake up and gorge myself. I take another quick nap.
Around 3:30, I gather myself and get dressed for my next easy run early and head to my friend’s house to relax together before the run at 5pm. He’s always got some tea ready along with some fresh mandazi. We have a snack and chat before our run. At 5pm sharp we head out at a baby trot, 40-50min. Exercises, strides, stretches.
When I get home, I’m exhausted. I shower, and read while waiting for supper, around 8pm. After supper, around 9:30, I slip into bed and make sure my mosquito net covers all four corners of my bed, and set my watch for 5:45am, an easy 40min to start the next day.
Most of the time, I’m wrapped up in what I’m doing, and who I’m with, it’s unbelievable. I love this. I love training full time. But it’s scary. There’s a lot of uncertainty right now in school and work, for when I get back. It unnerves me sometimes. Running here is so easy, getting things done happens before you know it, and it grounds me. I know what my days look like here, and I don’t worry about anything else here. What I worry about sometimes is that I don’t have a clear idea of what my days will look like when I get back home. All I know is I’ll arrive more focused than ever, ready to run fast, full of worldly experience with stories to tell, and able to pop out 100 mile weeks on tea, potatoes and ugali.