RUNNING WITH THE KENYANS 2
Running with the Kenyans – Alan White, 21st December 2015
Mileage gets me fit. Back home I’m somewhat obsessive with my weekly mile count, but priorities change up here so, after six days of acclimatising, I take Sunday off. Typically I’d cover 14 miles on a Sunday, but this isn’t south Manchester so a rest day is definitely sensible. Besides, even a gentle stroll out here trains your body to be more efficient.
The locals take Sundays off anyway, which makes it easier for a few of us to organise a visit to a giraffe sanctuary. Their territory spans 3,500 acres of farm land, an expanse so vast that you can’t even see the perimeter. There are no enclosures here, no barriers separating us from these docile beasts, but even so it’s rare for a group like ours to get within yards of a large group. Their kick can kill a lion, so just let them eat leaves, don’t make sudden movements, and they’ll carry on as normal.
Despite the lack of any top predators, the gazelles and antelope remain as timid as their reputations suggest, but still look glorious from a distance. Their horns look pretty handy too. A large bush sits entirely covered in thick spider’s web. I’m not sure whether the bush is home to a group of them or a single monster. Frankly I don’t want to know.
The landscape is breath-taking; almighty trees and soaring hawks monitor from above, punctuating immense swathes of sun-baked savannah. We approach a bush surrounded by hundreds of those nuisance flies you encounter in warm weather. Except they’re not flies, they’re bees, African bees, and apparently they detest the smell of sun cream. As a pasty northerner, it doesn’t take a genius to work out I’m covered in it. Our guide informs us that if one stings you, it marks you with a pheromone that screams ‘danger’ to the rest of the swarm. Ironically you can’t outrun them either. There’s a reason people call them ‘killer bees’, so we take the long way round. It’s not just the altitude and hills that make this a harsher environment; everything here is designed for survival, an approach I’m still adopting with my running.
I spend the remainder of the day eating, sleeping and boiling in the sauna with a Kenyan chap about my age who clocked 2:13 on his marathon debut. He trains with Wilson Kipsang. That’s the calibre of athlete here, so I take advantage of the opportunity and arrange an easy midweek run (where our interpretations of ‘easy’ could differ!) If Wilson joins us, I’ll make sure you know about it.
Two years ago, Monday mornings used to signal wretched hangover fatigue. Now I’m up at 7am ahead of a 25-minute fartlek where my recoveries (1-3mins as a guide) are to be dictated by pulse. ‘When it’s back down to 115/120, you can go again,’ advises Coach Roden via FaceTime. I push the first effort, one minute uphill, and my pulse follows the incline. The problem is, as slowly as I jog on the recovery, it won’t go down!
It’s much tougher to control pulse out here, especially with a complete lack of flat terrain, so generally I find myself taking the full 3mins recovery before picking it up again. I feel strong on the efforts but really feel it on the recoveries. This is still a lung-buster but overall I manage eight minutes of hard running. If three local Kenyan ladies clap you during an effort, you mustn’t look too bad.
I dig in with one last minute of hard running - my hands are on my knees when I finish the last effort, but I’m not on the deck. It’s still early days, I’ve only been here a week, so be patient.
As long as I keep recovering well, I’ll keep adapting well, which is important because my next session is one of my favourites: 8x400m on the track.
Posted 23/12/2015 15:20