Thought I'd try something new and enter a diary entry from Chicago O'Hare Airport as I'm awaiting the flight waiting to take me back for another stint in the cool winter of Fargo, ND. My achilles problems have eased up and instead the challenge ahead will be how to crunch in ever-increasing mileage on the cold streets of Fargo, the dreary treadmill of the hotel and between hard work and exciting American nightlife!
Wicklow in the Wet
After the snowy adventure of last week, my recent sojourns into the hills have been something akin to river-rafting on foot something that does provide a good cold sting to your feet but still makes life a lot easier than the thick polished ice-sheets than often serve as intermediaries between thick snow and sludging sleet.
Training continues to be great: My climbing has fundamentally change, seemingly overnight, and if I was a religious man I may claim it to be a miracle so rapid has it been. Sometimes when I run uphill it feels like the gradient isn't even there. High knees keep flowing at an incessant pace, and every moment I await a tiredness that never comes. Steeper gradients need to be tested for sure but that shouldn't trouble my mind too much, sometimes you should just let good training fill up your confidence tanks ahead of a long stern year.
Books of Inspiration
I'm currently reading two books about runners that shaped modern running and forged the ascendancy of the African hegemony we see in today's endurance running: Abebe Bekele and Haile Gebrselassie. The newer book on Haile, "The Greatest", showcases the philantropic and amicable champion and is worth a read for the astounding records it describes (anecdotes such as the 25 second final 200m Haile produced to win one of his 10000m World Championship never cease to impress). Other than that it seems a bit like a glamour-picture though and somehow I came away feeling it was a bit of a superficial story.
Not so with "Barefoot Runner", the amazing story of the, much too short, life of Abebe Bikila. Written in the format of a novel, the book's prose is worthy of the great humble champion who became the first to win two consecutive Olympic marathons, but digs much deeper as the runners story is intertwined with that of his tragic Finnish coach, a veteran of WW2, of the last Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie, and the nation once known to us Europeans as Abyssinia, the land of the Queen of Sheba.
With a story as deep, moving, and elegantly told as this, the need for fictious running novels is strongly reduced. If that's what you want try and start with "Barefoot Runner".
As the plane prepares to take off, I know I'll carry images of Bikila striding through the desolate tundra of his homeland with me for many a run...