Friday, 28 February 2014

Catch Up - OCT/NOV/DEC

This time last year, I was studying at University and working part-time in a small shop. Fast forward one year and I am now a full time athlete - training out in the heights of Kenya, preparing for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. It's amazing the difference a year can make.

Kenya
This is my second visit to the High Altitude Training Camp in Iten, Kenya. It is situated at 8,000ft high in the Rift Valley and home to hundreds of the world’s top athletes. Training here – is a huge eye-opener. There is not a bit of flat land in sight and the thousands of trails which surround the town are of tough, uneven mud terrain. Running in Iten... doesn't come easy. It really is an awe-inspiring place to visit and the locals are the friendliest people I have had the pleasure of coming across.

Made some new friends - Kenya
The whole culture in Iten is altogether different to anything I have ever seen before. Running is the norm. Back in my hometown of Dundee... running is definitely not the norm. You have to persuade people out on a run by claiming they can have a McDonald's after it or that they can have a bottle of wine later that evening. On the majority of my runs, I had numerous little kids – some as young as five, with no shoes on – running alongside me. It was impressive to see. They get excited seeing 'mazungos' (white people) out running. There are always kids joining in, asking my name, what country I come from – a really unique experience. I would literally have to throw my little brothers Xbox out the window to watch him run outside two metres to collect it – yet these tiny children were out nonchalantly jogging alongside me.

Back to the grind in Eldoret
Kenyan athletes to these kids are like gods – athletics is a way of life. The dusty, dirt track is constantly inundated with groups of 20-60 kenyan athletes which is a stark contrast to our modern, tartan tracks back home which rarely see more than ten people pass through the gates weekly. The only setback they have here are the sheep, cows and goats which regularly graze on the infield!

The food within the camp is very basic and after four weeks, it does become very repetitive. Ugali (a form of maize - tastes of nothing, has the texture of play-doh and if you threw it against a wall, it would probably stay there) is on offer every single day as the Kenyans swear by it. Alongside this kenyan 'delight', there is the option of rice and beef stew most evenings. For desert, we have watermelon or oranges. The repetitiveness of daily life does eventually start to get to you... but once you are back home, you genuinely do appreciate how nice it is to live in this manner. No worries. No stress.

Life is simple. Eat, sleep, train, repeat. There are no distractions. That's the difference to back home, there are umpteen distractions – silly little things you don’t think about until you realise out in Kenya - they aren’t there. It is the bare minimum – constant power cuts,cold showers, limited internet. Running is the only priority.

I will be returning out here again for another training spell at the beginning of January for four to six weeks. I hope these two trips to altitude will truly give me the training boost I need for the summer racing season. In my event, the 3000m steeplechase – the World Rankings are amass with Kenyan athletes and so I feel this is essential for my development in order to make the next step forward.

To be the best – you have to train like the best.

Thankfully this year, Christmas Day landed on a Wednesday which also coincides with my easy training day. It was lovely to spend some quality time at home with my family and friends as I rarely get to see them throughout the year. The 'Driving Home for Christmas' experience definitely wasn't as smooth as Chris Rea depicts. After almost ten hours of what should have been a six hour journey, my fateful windscreen wipers decided to break! A crashed car, two new wheels and a large bill to a car garage wasn't really what I was expecting for Christmas! However, I did finally make it back to Scotland in time! To makes things even more difficult, I haven't been able to avoid the winter illness spreading around this festive period and so have been fighting off an illness for the past week which unfortunately means my time at home has been cut short in order to get myself back to full health in time for a five week training spell out in Kenya!

Training out in Portland with the Oregon Project
Portland, Oregon
2013 has been a fantastic year from me. From racing in places I've always dreamed of visiting - Monaco, Rome, New York to a last minute trip over to America to visit the Nike Headquarters in Oregon, to watching Andy Murray win the Sports Personality of the Year – I couldn't of asked for anymore. I never thought I could cram so many fantastic moments into 365 days!

Very lucky to have the most amazing friends!
MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM SCOTLAND!