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LRC Exclusive: American High-Schooler Nebiyu Osman Visits Ethiopia's Running Across Borders Training Camp - 8000 Feet - Entry #2

By Nebiyu Osman
September, 2009

Running Across Borders Visit  

During my visit to the training camp Running Across Borders, I kept a journal of my experiences with the camp, training, and just some cool things that I did related to running. I did a number of other things while there but this just kind of gives one an idea of what my experience was like in terms of training.  

Enjoy, and make sure you visit Ethiopia in the future, it was an awesome experience which went by much too quickly for me.

Entry #2


8000 feet 

Today was my first day of official training with the Running Across Borders Camp. We drove out to the Semin Hotel in Addis to pick up one of the other coaches of RAB, Mersha. I was also very pleased with Mersha, a young and energetic character. As we discussed different aspects of training, particular athletes, and athletics in general, it was evident that he was very passionate and that he enjoyed what he did. Mersha was a talented runner himself, running 4:01 for 1500 meters, at altitude, however injuries forced him to take a step back. Although he very much enjoyed coaching, he told me that he had been entertaining the thought of starting up again. As we approached a construction site in what is called The CMC, I was confused because Mersha asked for our driver to stop. When we got out Mersha explained to me that where I would train was about a 5 minute walk from the car. I vividly remember that walk to the trails because about two minutes in, my breathing was audible! I was only walking! This was the day that I learned to respect the true challenge that a high altitude-training venue poses for a distance runner. I began to worry, “how am I supposed to run here if I get winded walking to the training site!”

We reached a very plush green forest with narrow lines of worn grass, worn from running. As I looked around I spotted several athletes stretching, jogging, and sprinting about the forest. “Ok Nebiyu, you will do just 25 minutes today. Start out slow and only increase the pace for the last 5 minutes if you feel ok. If you are not feeling well even after just 5 minutes I will have you stop.” The RAB coaches were extremely educated about training athletes at high altitudes and were very cautious with me to ensure that they did not introduce me to difficult training before I acclimated. I really liked our training spot for the day as I was accustomed to training on the roads daily. Having varied terrain to run on was great for preparing for cross-country. Mersha told me not to go too far from him so that he could watch me run. By the end of the run, which felt more like 50 minutes, Mersha had me do some light stretching. Training here was very strange because my legs felt great but I was breathing so hard. Usually at home, it is my legs that slow me down due to lactic acid but here you can’t even get your legs moving fast enough to get sore because our breathing slows you down first. Also, my stomach was bothering me a bit. Mersha explained that this is a normal affect that the altitude has on people who are not acclimated to it. He reassured me that my stomach problems would cease within a few days (they did).

### End Entry #2

Check back tomorrow on the LetsRun.com homepage for the next installment of Nebiyu's Addis adventure titled "Asphalt Day".

Entry #1


Kenenisa Bekele?!?! 

After going through some difficulties with contacting RAB (The Internet in Addis is soooo slow) I finally got Coach Melaku’s phone number. We made plans to meet in the afternoon to start putting together my training program for the next couple of weeks. While waiting to meet him at Piassa (one of the most popular shopping areas in town), I decided to scour the area to look for some official Team Ethiopia track gear. This was a bit frustrating because all of the shops at the stadium were selling less than top quality merchandise for unfair prices and because my bargaining skills were… sub par. Since I wasn’t really getting anywhere with finding the track gear my mom suggested that I ask coach Melaku if he knew a good place to shop. We called him up and he was quick to warn us not to buy anything yet because he knew a good store where we could get what we wanted for a good price, plus he said that camp members got a discount! While we waited for Melaku in piassa, I didn’t know what to expect. Questions like “Is he really qualified? What kind of experience does he have? Is he a national team coach? What kind of athletes has he coached? What is his training philosophy?” all plagued my mind as I waited to meet my new coach. Then, before I could wonder anymore I spotted a tall lean man wearing an IAAF t-shirt approaching our car.  It was Melaku.

After talking with him briefly I was very pleased. His calm and pensive demeanor was very comforting me which was important, as I was planning to trust a stranger to train me in something which I was passionate about. He ended up spending the rest of the afternoon with us, patiently answering all of our questions and helping me figure out my program for the next couple of weeks. As we were heading to the running store and I talked to him about Bekele and some other Ethiopian track stars, he dropped a bombshell “Yes, Kenenisa is very talented, he one of my Athletes.” I was completely dumbfounded; I was seriously about to be coached by the man behind Bekele’s success! And only for $30 a day! Currently Melaku is working with the Ethiopian Marathon Athletes that will compete at the World Championships in Berlin, including names like Deriba Merga. I think it is safe to say that Melaku had me SOLD. He was the real deal and still was very down to earth. He took us out to eat and then took us to the camp to give us a tour. I just couldn’t believe that it was so easy to get a hold of someone of his stature; America may be called the land of opportunity, but when it comes to distance running, Ethiopia comes second to none. Just two days before, I literally walked into the National Stadium from the street, to train with the World Championship Team practice, free of charge, no questions asked and in the process met Kenenisa Bekele, the greatest distance runner of all time! This kind of thing is nearly impossible anywhere else.  

## End Entry #1

About Nebiyu Osman
Nebiyu, 17, attends Mercersburg Academy in Mercersburg, PA where he trains as a distance runner. During his freshman year his dorm faculty resident learned he was of half-Kenyan, half-Ethiopian descent, and took an interest in him as a runner. This faculty member happened to be current LetsRun.com Employee #1 Emory Mort, who at the time was coaching winter and spring track at the school. After two dabbling years in track, Nebiyu (a soccer fan first and runner second) eventually found his true calling in running and switched to cross-country in 2008. In the summer of 2009 Nebiyu traveled with his parents to Ethiopia and was determined to find a training group to continue his preparations for his 2009 senior cross country season in the US.

A testament to his determination and optimism, Nebiyu found the Running Across Borders training group... and the rest was history. Luckily, it is now recorded history, as Neb wrote a series of journal entries to document the visit.

Because we found his journals and stories so inspiring, we at LetsRun.com will present you our readers with every journal entry from "Neb" as he experienced two weeks' training in Addis meeting the world's best runners and getting a taste for the high-altitude, soft surface, early morning, rugby-playing, fast-flying, barefoot running Ethiopian running scene.

Nebiyu left Ethiopia determined to help some of the people he met. He wants to spread the word about Running Across Borders. Learn more about this non-profit organization at runningacrossborders.org. We think the best page on the site is the "training camp" page. The organization, co-founded and co-directed by Garrett Ash and Malcolm Anderson, is particularly intriguing because it gives foreigners of any age the chance to travel to Ethiopia and train like Nebiyu did. You too can go train with the group, and the small boarding costs you pay help support the group. If you can't visit but want to donate, visit the site and help support the organization.

To watch Neb's first attempt at making a video that chronicles his travels, click here.





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