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

"Special Biscuits" - Entry #8

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 #8

7/29/09 

Special Biscuits 

Today was an “Easy Day” of training. I put this in quotations because this is what I was told; Mersha and Melaku had something else on their minds.

Mersha ran with me again today. “Today we are going to do 25 minutes very easy. Ok?” this was perfectly fine with me as I was pretty tired from the previous training session. The run started out innocently enough, we were starting out a bit quicker than normal but I was feeling good and didn’t think much of it. After about 7 minutes though, the pace had increased substantially and we were working pretty hard. I thought to myself, “Damn, Mersha is feeling good today! I hope he doesn’t ditch me in the forest!” I held on to him until he asked me has if it had been 13 minutes yet. Once again, he was spot on. This was when I started to think that something was up because he again increased the pace; we were moving at my 5k race pace (at least it felt like it). Then he asked for the time again. It had been 15 minutes. Then he stopped.

I was really confused. Thinking that I had misunderstood the training plan for the day and that we would be doing some short intervals or something, I didn’t bother asking why we stopped ten minutes early (I also didn’t ask because I didn’t really want to run for another ten minutes at that pace haha). Then Mersha told me to jog a bit. After he caught his breath he explained that Melaku had instructed for him to tell me that I would be doing a 25 minute run, but to actually have me only run for 15 minutes, and to run quickly. Mersha then said, “Melaku instructed me to listen to how your breathing was at an easy and fast pace. Your breathing was excellent! You have definitely improved!”

I was surprised to say the least. My coaches tricked me into running more efficiently; by having me think that I would need to run at that fast pace for an extra ten minutes, Mersha was able to examine my running economy without my being conscious of it, making my performance and his assessment more accurate because my mind didn’t interfere with my natural tendencies! Pure Genius! These guys knew what they were doing!

After stretching we headed out of the forest to find my cousin and our driver; they were nowhere in sight. Mersha and I decided to walk up the hill a bit and try to find them. As we crested the hill, we saw a car parked in between the main road and the access road. As we approached the car we saw Rahale, my cousin sitting in the back seat. When she saw us coming, she rolled down the window and pointed at the front tire. It was flat. Our driver had grabbed a taxi back to Addis to get a tire and a jack to fix the tire. It was a funny experience because back home I know that I would have been frustrated and annoyed by this (which would have taken no more than 30 minutes to fix), but here no one was really bothered by our disposition. If there is one thing I have learned during my trip, it is that Ethiopians are VERY patient people. They have to be in order to live peacefully in this country, an impatient Ethiopian in Ethiopia will invariably be an unhappy person!

Things in Ethiopia are just slow, whether it is the Internet, the drive to work, or in our case, getting a tire changed, it was something that we just had to cope with. It was kind of nice though because when you aren’t in control of a situation, such as ours, you just go with the flow. Mersha and I wanted to get some water so we headed over to a little mud hut, which was actually a convenience store, which was right across the road. I was really hungry but I was not really allowed to eat anything without my mom’s or one of my cousins’ “stamps of approval”. Throughout the trip I suffered from not being able to eat fruit from every fruit stand and kitfo at the restaurants we went to (traditional Ethiopian raw meat dish). This time I was free! So I bought these biscuits called, no lie “Glucose honey-and-milk special biscuits”. Just as I opened the packet and pulled out a biscuit Mersha got a phone call from none other than my cousin Rahale who was waiting in the car. “Why are you guys taking so long? You didn’t get those biscuits did you? He isn’t supposed to eat anything from outside!”(This girl is psychic I swear) I had already passed the point of no return, I had smelled the sweet honey biscuits and I was hungry.

Mersha turned to me and relayed the message (which I already knew was coming), but I couldn’t control myself. “NOOOOO” I yelled as I stuffed two of the crackers into my mouth, Mersha made an honest attempt at stopping me but he was too late. I had gotten half way through the packet within a matter of seconds. I swear, these are the best tasting biscuits I have ever had, I don’t know if it’s the glucose or the fact that I actually got to choose what I ate for once in almost a month, but they were awesome. Mersha was sooo scared that it would be his head if I got sick, it was hilarious. “Nebiyu, just remember I tried to stop you! Please don’t tell your cousin,” and of course he was laughing.

Before we entered the car, Mersha made me wash my mouth out with the bottled water! The attempt at a cover-up was futile; Mersha and I were horrible liars! When we got in Rahale didn’t even ask if I had eaten the biscuits, she just asked me, “Nebiyu! Why did you eat those biscuits?” She was obviously amused by our attempt at covering up what happened. I tried my best to hold a straight face when I asked, “What biscuits?” but it was useless, I just lost it! After the biscuit incident, Mersha pointed out a tall lean runner approaching us, “Do you know who that is? He’s Markos Geneti!” Geneti was one of Mersha’s favorite athletes as he was one of the more underrated runners in Ethiopia yet was also a great talent, beating both Haile and Kenenisa in the past, I had no idea. After he did some stretches we went over to talk to him. He was a very nice guy. Mersha and Geneti discussed the state of athletics in Ethiopia and how Ethiopian running would be much more successful if there were more camps like RAB. Geneti seemed to like some of Mersha’s ideas and as we left he told Mersha that he would like to speak with him more in the future! This looked to me like the beginning of a business partnership but what do I know haha.  

## End Entry #8

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


Entry #7

7/27/09 

“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


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
Read Entry #6 - Gelete Burka's EZ Day - 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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