Monthly Archives: February 2014

Upcoming Race: Paris Marathon

On April 6th, one day prior to my birthday, I will run the Paris Marathon. Having not run a flat-out marathon since 2011 I hope to run my fastest time over the distance.

Paris Marathon
Paris Marathon

I did have the opportunity to run the course of the Paris Marathon over a period of two days in November last year, which will hopefully help in my mental preparation for the race.

Paris Marathon - Course Map
Paris Marathon – Course Map

My training over the past six months has definitely not been ideal, as it has been squeezed in between constant touring and considerable travel distances. From early January I tried putting more focus into my running efforts, and I also planned for four weeks of intense training that I will discuss in some upcoming posts.

After Paris I will start building up my mileage in preparation for my biggest focus race for the year, an ultra marathon that I will also discuss in a later post. But that can wait another 5 weeks (and a bit) until I cross the finish line within sight of the Arc de Triomphe.

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Training Runs: The Roads of Ethiopia

A white person running on the roads of Ethiopia attracts a lot of attention. After leaving Addis Ababa (only completing a treadmill run there), where foreigners are a lot more common, it was only once I arrived in the smaller cities and towns that I started venturing onto the roads to cover some mileage.

It was great altitude training with the lowest of my runs taking place more than 2000 metres above sea level, and my highest reaching up over 2800 metres. Even at the altitudes at which I was running I felt comfortable running the training paces I would normally run at sea level. It was a great confidence boost that months of touring, with runs squeezed in amongst my travels had not affected my fitness too much.

The roads of Ethiopia were very quiet in terms of motorised traffic once I left Addis Ababa behind. I would encounter many more donkeys and mules along the roads than I would cars and trucks, and people were constantly heading to and from the cities and towns. With the minimal traffic I stuck to major roads, most of them very well constructed so that I could enjoy the run and focus on my surrounds.

Ethiopia - A Road Near Yeha
Ethiopia – A Road Near Yeha

Continue reading Training Runs: The Roads of Ethiopia

Training Run: A Treadmill in Addis

I travelled to Ethiopia for 13 days of touring around the north of the country. My purpose for visiting was to see historic sights but it would also give me a good opportunity to get in some training at altitude before my upcoming running-focussed trip to Kenya.

After spending my first day sightseeing in Addis Ababa I realised that a road run in the late afternoon would involve many frustrating road crossings and a lot of traffic, both motorised and pedestrian. Staying at a hotel with a gym I made the decision to run on the treadmill instead. I am not exactly sure when my last treadmill run took place, but I think it must have been at least a couple of years ago. I set the treadmill to a 1% gradient and set off.

Continue reading Training Run: A Treadmill in Addis

Training Runs: Table Mountain Once More … or Twice

I ran up Table Mountain for the first time just a few months ago back in September, following the very popular Platteklip Gorge to the top of the mountain.

Finding myself back in Cape Town again I was provided with the opportunity to climb Table Mountain once more … or maybe even twice more.

Table Mountain - Cape Town From the Top
Table Mountain – Cape Town From the Top

Staying in the suburb of Observatory, on the east side of the mountain, I took off on the first morning from Cecilia Forest and climbed from there to traverse above the Kirstenbosch Gardens. I climbed up another popular route, Skeleton Gorge, and then continued to climb to the highest point on the mountain, Maclear’s Beacon. For my return journey I made my way to Nursery Ravine, and descended from there before returning to my car.

Continue reading Training Runs: Table Mountain Once More … or Twice

Training Runs: Central Drakensberg

The Drakensberg Mountains form the border between South Africa and the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, with peaks rising over 3000 metres above sea level. The mountain range is separated into north, central and south regions. I had previously visited the north on a number of occasions to relax, to hike and to run. But I had never been to the central or south regions.

Looking for somewhere new to run some trails I made by way to the Central Drakensberg region. I planned out two days of running, with the route for day one suggested by an American staying at the same accommodation and the route for day two suggested by the owner.

When I met up with the same American for dinner and drinks in Cape Town a few days later he started by apologising for not considering the difference between his hiking of the trail and my running of it. The run took my around the area of Cathedral Peak, climbing up an escarpment before taking a path that followed the contour of the land. Unfortunately the weather was quite grey and overcast, but the surrounds were spectacular. But the biggest problem was the sharp grass and thorny bushes that crowded the trail. For a hiker in pants they did not present too much of a problem, but for a runner in shorts I returned back to the base with extremely scratched shins from a few hours of gradual cutting and scratching.

Cathedral Peak - The Trail Down
Cathedral Peak – The Trail Down

My second run took me around the Monk’s Cowl area. I was greeted with perfect blue skies, and once again ran up to the escarpment before following the contour while taking in the stunning scenery. The early running paths were in great condition, and when they started to become overgrown and more difficult to follow I decided to turn around for the return journey.

Continue reading Training Runs: Central Drakensberg

Race Report: Mielie Marathon

When security concerns in Mozambique forced me to change my travel plans, I headed through to South Africa a couple of weeks earlier than I had planned and decided to arrange my time around some good running.

It turned out that I would arrive in Johannesburg a couple of days prior to the Mielie Marathon, which I had run and reported on last year. In my race report last year I provided a glimpse on the social aspect of our trip, mentioning the group that travelled down, as well as the beers enjoyed the night prior to the race. I didn’t however touch on the larger celebrations enjoyed the following night, which helped to make the thought of a return trip most welcome.

This year Campbell was unable to join for the trip to Welkom for the race, but Lindsey, Kirsten, Justin and I were back for a repeat. Lindsey was targeting a PB, Justin was targeting a sub-3:00 to secure his A-seed for Comrades, Kirsten was starting out with Justin, and I would pace another member of our running club from Fourways named Peter, who was targeting a sub-3:30.

Mielie Marathon - Fourways Runners
Mielie Marathon – Fourways Runners

When the gun went off I pulled alongside Peter, and set forward a pacing plan. I explained that we would set out at a pace of 5:00 min/km, then run the middle section at 5:00 min/km, and then finish up at 5:00 min/km. Since that would actually result in a 3:31 we did need to scrape off one minute over the 42 km. Then we started executing on that plan.

Continue reading Race Report: Mielie Marathon

Training Run: Luxembourg, France & 4 x 2000 m

I actually ran the below session in early November, and wrote this post in its entirety the same week but never got around to posting it. But this blog will start to see renewed attention as I work towards my running goals for 2014.

What do two different countries have to do with a speed workout, and a fairly uncommon speed workout at that?

First, let me mention that I had not completed a formal speed session in my running since the first half of 2011. I can’t honestly claim to remember that specific session, but my running log confirms that it was hill repeats performed on the street outside my housing estate in Johannesburg, and I remember those hill sessions very well. I would run a 500 metre section of the hill, generally 8 or 10 times, and the session would always really hurt.

Since then I have run a lot. I have run fast and I have run slow. My pacing has sometimes been indicative of a fartlek session and sometimes akin to a tempo session. But at no point since that last speed session have I planned and executed a session with any intent or purpose.

When I realised that some errands I need to complete on my third day in Paris would not allow me to complete a morning run, it meant that I would be running in the dark. Therefore I decided the safest option would be to find a loop with no streets to cross. The solution was the Jardin de Luxembourg, which I measured using MapMyRun.com to be around 1500 metres. I never put together routes for my easy runs that involve multiple loops, so I decided that if I was going to complete loops I might as well run them fast.

I planned out my session to run the approximately 3 km from my accommodation to the gardens, complete four loops of 1500 metres with a recovery period in between each. I made it to the gardens without incident, took off on my first loop but it seemed to take forever. I worried that I had already completed the loop without noticing, but when I finally completed loop one I looked at my watch to realise that it was actually a 2000 metre loop.

I ran a 2-minute recovery and took off for lap two. I ran each loop just faster than my marathon pace so it wasn’t a flat out 2000 metres, but it really did feel good to run fast. I decided to maintain my original plan of four loops despite the additional distance of each. Upon completion of my final loop I made my way home following a slightly different route.

With my target now focussed on a fast marathon I will start to include some formal speed sessions. I did enjoy running fast but I do not look forward to my first flat out, red line session, where you attempt to avoid throwing up since it will impair the attempts of your body to suck in  enough oxygen to sustain life. However I know that those type of sessions are something I have to look forward to.

Why would anyone not want to be a runner?