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LRC Exclusive: American High-Schooler Nebiyu Osman Visits Ethiopia's Running Across Borders Training Camp  

"Use Your ARMS!" - Entry #7

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 #7


“Use Your ARMS!” 

Today I spent some more quality time at sululta for a medium day. Coach Mersha ran with me this time, taking us through the run at an easy early pace, as usual. Gradually we increased the pace until after about 30 minutes we were really moving. It was really incredible. At sea level back home, I would always try to do progression runs but would usually just hold back for the first mile and then end up doing a steady paced hard 4 miles, and feel terrible doing it. I really learned to build up slowly on my progression runs here in Ethiopia. It was always very rewarding; you get this feeling of invincibility and indefatigableness when you time everything right. For the whole first half of the run you feel relaxed, smooth, strong, and most of all confident, confident that if you wanted to you could take off… but you don’t. You slowly let up on the reigns as the time passes, and soon enough you are flying. Coach Mersha had the uncanny ability to gauge his effort perfectly. He wouldn’t wear a watch. As we ran, he would say “it has been about 33 minutes right?” I take a glance at my watch and he is right on the dot. “Uh yeah” I reply, incredulous. “Let me know when we have run 35 ok?”

We ran the last 5 minutes very quick and then Mersha told me to do a light jog to one of the clearings in the forest. “Now, I want you to do a few speed intervals. 4 x 1min at your 3k-5k race pace with a 2 minute recovery jog in between. This should not be very hard. This is a good time to work on your arms.” One of the funniest things about my trip to Ethiopia was how everyone that saw me run, commented on my arms! For example: I went to visit/train at the National Stadium once. I didn’t know it but the national team was practicing there that day so there were National team Coaches and Athletes in the stands. The director of the stadium had said that I could come in that day to train a bit and to see Kenenisa Bekele do a workout. I didn’t know it, but the people he told to help me out were actually National Team Mid-D guys getting ready for Berlin!! Anyways, when they took me down to the track to train with them, my Mom and a few family friends were watching from the stands where the National team was converging. While I was running with the guys, some of the coaches and athletes in the stands near my mom and friends heard about me. Many of them came over to my mom and said, “Your son is a very good runner! He has good mechanics with his legs! The only problem is that his arms are stiff! He needs to loosen up!”

This was one of the things that I thought about more when I trained. It was a small thing, but the parts make a whole and in a sound training program even something minor such as one’s arms makes a difference.  

## End Entry #7

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

Entry #6


Gelete Burka’s EZ day  

What an awesome day. Mersha and I headed to Sululta for my morning run. As we got out of the car Mersha spotted Girma, a 13:30 5k runner and a good friend of Mersha who trains at RAB a few times a week, finishing up a training run. He and Mersha chatted in Amharic a bit and then Mersha turned to me and said “Do you want to meet Sileshi and Tirunesh?” “Uhmmm…Yes!” I replied. It turned out that Girma was a very good friend of Sileshi’s and that he even trained with him occasionally. Girma said that he would introduce me to them if I wanted! I was pretty pumped about this but what was even crazier was what happened right when we finished talking to Girma.

As Mersha and I headed towards the forest he explained what I would be doing for training. “Ok Nebiyu, today I want you to run 20 minutes very easy and then for the next 5 minutes pick  up the pace, then for a cool do-“ Mersha then squinted as he tried to make something out ahead of us ”Look! It’s Gelete Burka!” . I looked to where he was pointing and could see a woman wearing a baby blue track jacket and black tights weaving through the Sululta forest! Mersha said that we could try to talk to her after her training was over. I jumped into my run and about five minutes into it I am coming to a clearing in the forest and Gelete Burka darts right by me, I couldn’t believe it! I bumped into her a again as I finished up my speed interval.

Later, after I did some stretching, Mersha and I headed back to the car to wait for Gelete. We weren’t alone though! A few days before when we were doing some stretches after a run there, a young shepherd no more than 5 years of age approached us. Mersha tried to talk to him but the boy couldn’t speak Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia, he only spoke Oromia, his tribal language. The boy decided to take a quick break from tending to his sheep and cattle when he saw us stretching. He was hoping we would give him a few birr (Ethiopian currency) if he sang us one of his songs. This was probably the most adorable thing that I saw during my trip. Well he came to see us after our training sessions every time we went until today, and each day he would bring another friend with him. Today when we returned to the car there were ten little shepherds waiting to see us! They sang a beautiful Oromia song for us. There was one older girl with them, she spoke some Amharic and we learned that she was 13 years old. Mersha asked her, only half-jokingly, if she would like to run! The girl was very outgoing and said why not! As we talked to her more she explained that their school was not very good and that they did not have books to read or pencils to write with. We promised to come back with some school supplies for them the next time we came to train in sululta.

After we said goodbye to the kids Gelete and her pacer emerged from the forest and started stretching, 200 yards away from us. Mersha and I walked over and he asked if it was alright for me to get some pictures with her. She was very friendly and said that she had no problem with it. After we took a few pictures she resumed stretching and invited me to join. I was just amazed at how open and personable Gelete was; I am pretty sure she asked me more questions than I asked her! “Where are you from? How old are you? What event do you run?” I asked her about what her racing plans were for the next few months and she told me that her main focus was the 1500 in Berlin. I told her “Don’t worry, you should win easily.” And she just laughed shyly and said, “I hope so!” maintaining the same modest yet confident demeanor, which was characteristic of most the Ethiopian runners that I met. I asked her about where she normally trained and she said “sometimes here, at Entoto (I had been there 2 days earlier), CMC (the location of the RAB camp), and at Nazaret (where RAB does speedwork).” After we finished chatting with Gelete, I went back to the house and took my daily 2-hour-long nap. 

## End Entry #6

Read Entry #1 - Kenenisa Bekele - by clicking here.
Read Entry #2 - 8000 Feet - by clicking here
Read Entry #3 - Asphalt Day - by clicking here.
Read Entry #4 - RAB Rugby - by clicking here.
Read Entry #5 - 14:23 - by clicking here

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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