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Fascinating Training Lessons From Ethiopian Marathon Runners

by RunnersConnect: Coaching Community, Running Experts, Inspiring Runners, No Fluff Blog
March 1st 2023

Why does it make sense to Ethiopian runners to get up at 3am to run up and down a hill? 

Who would choose to train on almost impossibly steep and rocky terrain, in hyena territory? 

A... More

This is Mike Crawley, you're listening to the run to the top podcast. Hello fellow runners, I'm your host, Finn Melanson and this is the run to the top podcast podcast dedicated to making you a better runner. With each and every episode We are created and produced by the expert team of coaches at runners connect dot net where you can find the best running information on the internet as well as training plans to fit every runner and every budget. Why does it make sense to Ethiopian runners to get up at three a.m. To run up and down a hill, Who would choose to train on almost impossibly steep and rocky terrain in Hyena territory and how come Ethiopian men hold six of the top 10 fastest marathon times ever. Michael Crawley spent 15 months in Ethiopia training alongside and sometimes a fairway behind runners at all levels of the sport from nightwatchman hoping to change their lives to world class marathon runners in order to answer these questions and in this episode of the run to the top podcast, we dig into those insights from his experiences and learn how they can apply to athletes at all stages of their running journey.

I'd also like to introduce you to a new sponsor of the show timeline, nutrition timeline has developed a groundbreaking product called Mid top Your, that actually revitalizes your mitochondria, which creates energy in nearly every cell in your body. Later in the episode, I'll explain the science and how you can get a sweet discount. Alright, Mike trolley! Welcome to the show. Great to have you here. Great to be here. Thanks for having me first question that I want to ask you after reading your book out of thin air. I think a lot of listeners are somewhat familiar with Kenyan running culture and oftentimes everyone else in the region gets lumped into this category of East African. Can you talk broadly about what makes Ethiopian running culture unique in that area? Yeah, sure. Just to kind of expand a little bit on what you've just said, I think that um, what has tended to happen Yeah, is people have referred to the East Africans generally, most people have gone to kenya just because you know, you can speak english in kenya, there's some pretty comfortable hotels in return.

Um, Ethiopia is a little bit um slightly more difficult to access I suppose because the language is tricky, Amharic and runners tend to live in the capital city, but then take busses all around to train. So I do think we tend to make assumptions based on Kenyan running and then apply them to other East African countries, even though there's this huge kind of cultural variation between different people in Ethiopia. So the main kind of differences I guess, or the things that I found surprising when I first got there I suppose were people were very um invested in this communal idea about what success was. So it was this idea that training had to be a collective process. Um, it was very important to be embedded within a group. And so the first thing that happened to me when I got there is I started running in the forest on my own and I was basically grabbed by this group of guys who are running past in a kind of single file line and they said training alone is just, you know, you can train alone if you want, but that's just something that people do for health if you want to be transformed as an athlete, you got to run with other people.

So that was kind of really impressed on me early on that this was this is something that is very important to people. This idea that you could kind of improve as a group and, and things. Um, other things that were surprising with the fact that people, you know, these are some of the very best marathon runners in the world. So the, the group I was in ranged from sort of two or six, maybe 2 to 10 to 11 marathon runners wasn't one of the very top groups actually, but these are the guys who were operating on a very high level, they only ran on the road once a week max. They were very keen to stress that it was important to avoid kind of firm surfaces at all costs. They said that the kind of asphalt surface killed your legs and that you lose your speed completely if you train too much on the road. So a lot of what we were doing there was it was kind of finding the right kind of set of surfaces and environments to train in that they thought would lead to improvement as an athlete.

So it was a lot about kind of how to position yourself within the environment in order to improve. So I guess that's a slightly different way of thinking about things to the way that we might think about it in the west as well. I love what you said there in particular about this communal idea of success. And I want to come back to that later in the conversation because I think it was such a major focal point of the book. But one other thing I loved about the book is how much you intersperse these sociological commentaries about how the running culture in Ethiopia has been built up. And one thing that stuck out, This is part question part comment from a historical standpoint, can you talk about why in the last let's call it 40-50 years, their government and seemingly society as a whole has placed such an emphasis on this sport and provided outlets for people to you know, rise up the ranks in train full time and race full time because it seems to me that if you compare the opportunities available to say a U. K. Runner versus an Ethiopian runner the ladder is gonna have a lot more institutional support at least in the public sector.

So maybe talk about why that's so special there. Yeah, absolutely. I think that's a really important thing to kind of get across as well because we have this assumption based on some of the kind of media reporting on running in east africa that, you know, runners are good because they they ran barefoot to and from school out of necessity and therefore they just kind of automatically became champion athletes. Um That's very much not the case. As you said, there's this this, you know, really wide institutional support in, so in kenya athletics was basically introduced in the colonial context by the british um Ethiopia was not really like that, It was never kind of formerly colonized in the same way. Um so the way that people got interested in athletics was that there was a bodyguard, sorry uh an army general or major in the army who came in to train the imperial bodyguard of highly Selassie, who was the emperor. And he just sort of realized that some of the imperial bodyguard members were quite good at running and he decided to coach them highly Selassie as part of his kind of desire to frame Ethiopia is a more modern nation in the in the sixties, kind of got hold of this and was like right, we're gonna get Ethiopia into the olympics and and have some representation from distance runners and then Abebe Bikila went to the Um the Olympics in Rome in 1960 and won the marathon running Barefoot.

And that kind of sparked this huge amount of I guess national pride in an Ethiopian running, which has then been, as you say, kind of supported by the government. So nowadays you have a whole tier of first division running clubs that are all supported by like the bank, local bank, the cement factory, the Army, the Prison Service and those institutions basically pay athletes a salary just to run full time. So technically a lot of the guys in the professional group that I ran in were employees of the Ethiopian Electric Corporation. So they would go to the electric, they're kind of electric corporation for lunch in the canteen quite often alongside the people who work for the electricity corporation. But yeah, so there's this huge number of hundreds of athletes who are basically supported to run full time and to just make that all that they do. And then the domestic competitions between these clubs are really kind of fiercely contested. And then the best of those athletes then go abroad to race.

So you've got this whole kind of um very competitive domestic running scene in Ethiopia that I think a lot of people don't really know very much about as well. I think it ties in again to this communal idea of success that you talked about earlier as well. One more thing I want to ask you about on that front, you noted that it is sort of a common misconception that it's the poorest who become the champion runners in the country, but at the same time in the book, you note that there is this morality when it comes to work ethic that's tied to this memory of poverty and doing justice to a past self and not forgetting those circumstances. So can you reconcile those two things a bit more or explain them at least? Um yeah, so I guess it's a similar idea to there's a socialist called louis Kahn who writes about boxing in Chicago and he says, you know, it's not the people from the very poorest households are not going to be the ones that are producing boxes because it's just too disordered a life. If you're really kind of just living completely hand to mouth, you're not going to be able to have the structure to become a boxer.

It's kind of the same, I guess in Ethiopia, it's not the very poorest households, but most of the athletes that I knew came from basically subsistence farming backgrounds. So their parents were farmers, they grew up in um in highland areas where that was, yeah, that was how they lived uh a lot of people would say until they moved to addis and kind of joined a club, they hadn't really ever eaten anything that wasn't grown within eyesight where they lived so that you kind of people, you know, really kind of living living off the land and the way that people talked about wanting to become a runner was that they wanted to change their life. That was the way that everybody said I want to change my life. I want to change the life for my family by making making money. So it was kind of yeah, very much an economic motivation. But usually the the runners came from families where the families didn't necessarily want them to become a runner. They kind of would have preferred them to focus on education and other sort of roots towards success and um improving their lives.

But people, so people had to kind of defend the the right to become a runner against their families a lot of the time, but I hope that makes sense now of course. Um one of the things that I don't want to overlook before we get more into the book is that you have this academic background and I think it's always cool when we create these intersections between some sort of academic discipline like ethnography in our sport and you know, again early in the book that running an anthropology for example allow you to do a similar thing live a whole other life. And I that struck me as interesting, can you talk more about that connection and what it means in detail. Yeah. So um so ethnography, just anybody who doesn't know is um the main kind of research method that anthropologists use, which is mainly a method of participant observation. So basically the idea is that you spend a lot of time with the people that you're trying to write about in order to really get to know them. Um and they're kind of way of life in a really kind of in depth, intimate way. So the way I did that was to spend 15 months basically living and training alongside a group of Ethiopian runners.

Um and yeah, so I suppose fairly obviously ethnography as a way of living a whole other life, because I was completely, you know, in a new country learning a new language, living with people I've never met before. Um but yeah, I kind of think that running in a sense allows us to do that as well because we have, you know, everything else that we have in our lives um and then running in running kind of office, this whole a whole other kind of set of aspirations, a whole different way of kind of escaping from from the rest of what's going on. A way to have this whole other narrative about what what we're doing, I suppose. So, I kind of just thought it was slightly interesting kind of overlap between those two right on. Well, coming back to this idea, this theme of this communal idea of success. There were a lot of interesting contrast between East and the west in this book and one that struck me was the fact that in Ethiopia no one runs no one trains alone. So can you talk I have a lot of questions off this, but the first one is can you talk about the cultural and performance rationales for why this is the case there?

Yeah, well, I guess I'll start with the cultural side of it basically. Um people had this sense that they the energy was sort of limited to a certain extent, that there was like that there was only so much energy that you had access to as an athlete and that it was kind of morally appropriate to train with other people so that everybody could keep an eye on what everybody else was doing. So in some sense, um there was a level of kind of suspicion about the way that some other people could train. So the idea was that it was important to to basically be able to see what everybody else was doing and to expend energy equally, so that everybody had a kind of um equal opportunity to succeed. So it was seen as um morally inappropriate to run on your own, especially if you run on your own at night, or kind of in a way that was seen as being kind of secretive.

Um so I realized quite early on that it was going to be seen as really antisocial if I was to try and run go for a run on my own. Um and then in terms of performance, this idea that this belief in kind of shared energy was even more pronounced in that people, people would always train in if they were running fast in a kind of single file line running very, very close to each other, um and they would run in synchrony with each other, so, you know, right foot down, left foot down, everybody running in time, which I found very, very difficult to get used to at the beginning, and that was because there was people thought it was kind of like with cycling and a peloton, I suppose there was this very strong sense that whoever was at the front of the line was expanding the most energy, so you would put whoever was leading would be kind of swapped in and out to make sure that this was kind of an equitable division of of kind of running work, I suppose. Um but I think what it all comes down to really is this sense that people were really keen to make sure that they weren't overtraining, and the overtraining was the biggest danger for a group of people for whom running could potentially mean completely transforming their lives forever.

You know, if you've got a chance to go to Dubai marathon, which is almost always won by, you know, an 18 year old Ethiopian who's not been abroad before or um and they win $200,000 suddenly um if you've got that kind of incentive then it's very very easy to over train do too much. So a lot of the I think a lot of this idea that you have to always train together um it's just too is to kind of rein people in and make sure there's a degree of control over making sure that people didn't do too much and run to stress is a common factor that affects everyone in today's fast paced world, leading to various health issues including heart problems, inflammation, obesity and mental illness. While most people focus on finding relief through meditation or trips to the spa, what if the root cause of stress is actually a deficiency and a key nutrient introducing magnesium break through the ultimate magnesium supplement.

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Top your comes in powder form to mix into your favorite smoothie protein powder. If you're looking for a great 12 punch of muscle support or soft shells, Improving your Mitochondria is one of the best things you can do for your health. And with mitt op you're from timeline nutrition, it has never been easier. So go to timeline and use promo code or runners connect for 10% off the plan of your choice. Just following up on what you said there about this whole, you know, preference towards training community and all the gains that can be achieved from it. I'm curious because in the West here, so in the U. K. For example, in the United States for example, I feel like a lot of athletes are biased towards this solo practitioner style of training and preparing for events and maximizing their potential. So why do you see there being such a gulf between how how runners train in Ethiopia versus how runners prefer to train over here? Uh Such a good question. Um I think we have kind of this very individualistic, I sort of notion that comes basically from sports science, this idea that we kind of, you have, you can take an individual body and submit it to these kinds of input output testing and then kind of come up with this um extremely kind of individualized training program that will be best for that one person.

Um And Ethiopia people don't don't undergo any of that kind of testing really. They don't they wouldn't know they're kind of lactic threshold anything like that. Um And I suppose they're all They all know to a certain degree what kind of pace they're going to have to run to be competitive and to actually make money and you know be able to to run well in the race is that they want to run in. So they don't actually have that much of a choice about what kind of pace their training at or kind of what they're they're all they all know roughly that they're aiming to try to get down to sort of 6-7 for a marathon or even quicker. Um So you can you can effectively write a training program to do that and then everybody tries to follow it more or less. Um But you know I thought I think there's also a sense that we you know the that kind of notion that everybody is unique and needs to completely um unique training program that's crafted exactly to them also uh that allows you to sell a lot of stuff to people um as well.

So a lot of the new, you know the kinds of things that runners start to start to use in terms of like GPS watches in terms of things that measure H. R. V. And you know um even you know, even things like I guess super Sapiens, things like that, they're all, they're all predicated on this notion that you're unique and you need to have these insights into just you that you can then apply to your training. Um, so I suppose we're also pushed in that direction by um capitalism generally, but in um in Ethiopia, there's just more of a sense that you need, you need other people in order to be able to run at that level. And I guess at the at the highest level, I suppose in the States as well, it's the same right. You have the kind of training groups with where people probably have a more communal idea of what about what success is and and the importance of being in that kind of environment. I suppose people who've got less time to train um do you need to by necessity have to train alone a lot more as well?

That's part of it. There's a great quote in the book that I wanna read off here because I think it's relevant to what you just said, quote disenchantment is the distinctive injury of modernity. Many of us in the West believe that there are no mysterious incalculable forces that come into play, but rather that one can in principle master all things by calculation. And I think you were talking in that section about how in the West were incredibly aware of our limits or are perceived limits in in Ethiopia in other parts of the world. Um there's a lot more mystery about what can possibly be attained as an athlete. Um and I think you say a lot of it is about training intuitively training creatively taking an adventurous approach. Can you just talk about that whole section, because I was just so impressed by, by that observation? Yeah, yeah, I think elsewhere, I also say it's like, it's not only to do with kind of lung capacity, but it's also about kind of cultivating this capacity to dream and to like to think that you might one day succeed.

Um Yeah, I think a lot of, a lot of that also comes down to sort of religious beliefs as well in Ethiopia that Orthodox christians often believe that um you you need to sort of work hard and be diligent and um and kind of be quite patient in your work and that that may or may not want at some point be rewarded by God. So you never, so the idea is that you never really quite know whether it's gonna be God's plan to just suddenly elevate you up to being in the case of a marathon runner, somebody who can win a race like Dubai, so they have this far more open sense of what their possibilities might be, but it did mean it meant I would meet, you know, most people's, even if they didn't seem like they were that good an athlete, they still had this like, idea in the back of their mind, that maybe if they did the right thing and trained in the right way for a certain amount of time, that they would be able to transform themselves into an athlete of that kind of caliber.

So, people talked about training as adaptation. Um, so not as like, so that so they saw the process of training as being quite malleable and that anybody could adapt given the right circumstances to being a kind of two oh six marathon runner. It was all about just giving, putting yourself in the environment that would allow you to make those adaptations. So, they didn't, I think that notion of what improvement is as an athlete doesn't really have much space for an idea that your your you are kind of bound by a certain set of limits, whether that's, you know, lactic threshold or vo two max or anything else? I'm curious what your initial reaction in long term reaction has been to their de emphasis of genetic potential. Because I just read a book, for example, uh, David Epstein's the sports gene where, you know, every single chapter is just sort of, an homage to all of these innate factors. And I think in a lot of cases, you know, siding more with the nature side of the nature versus nurture debate.

So, did you feel like, um, after experiencing all of this culturally and being in the trenches with them that they're onto something when it comes to de emphasizing that part of human nature and that at the end of the day, if you are liberated from that mindset or maybe the science of it all, that you actually can go further than you thought you could. Yeah, I mean, I guess in some way they kind of do buy into that sort of idea as well. So people would talk about, but they wouldn't talk about certain genetic kind of adaptations necessarily, but they would talk about the special air in, in parts of addis ababa and the surrounding area and up in the highlands where we went to train as giving them a kind of particular advantage. And I think that the belief that they had the belief in that advantage is almost as important, I think as the actual advantage itself, if there is an advantage, because it meant that they thought that when they went to sea level that they were better than everybody else. So that kind of helps. But most of the genetic research, I mean, they've never really managed to isolate genes that they've been able to prove are associated with athletic performance.

There's been so many attempts to do that and it's never really actually been proven, um, you know, we don't, um, we don't tend to, we just because the can run so fast, we don't assume that he's, you know, Norwegian people are sort of genetically gifted in a particular way. So I think this um there's problems there and as I said before, you know, there's so many people running that that sort of at the level that somebody like Yakov is training at in Ethiopia that it does, that it makes sense that there are more people who compete, who are able to run that quick, who come from there. Um But I don't, I mean, I don't rule out that there are genetic adaptations or kind of altitude advantages in Ethiopia. It's just that as a social anthropologist, I'm not equipped to study them. What I can do is kind of give a picture of the, of the kind of cultural um uh factors I suppose in their success. But I do think, I mean, I personally think that they're more important than the sports gene kind of interpretations as you've heard me speak about before, adding a G one to my daily routine has been the best thing I've done all year.

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One has made it an even better deal for run to the top listeners by giving you a year's worth apply of vitamin D. Plus five travel packs when you use the link athletic greens dot com backslash, R. T. T. T. They even have a money back guarantee if you don't love it again, that's athletic greens dot com backslash, R. T. T. T. To get a year's supply of vitamin D. And five travel packs plus a money back guarantee. You mentioned that in this culture high performance and enjoyment of running are not mutually exclusive like these runners can still achieve without sacrificing what drew them to the sport in the first place. How do you, what's their secret there? Like how do they make this possible? Because I think there's a lot of people that feel like they have to sort of sell themselves down the river and they have to become sort of monomaniacal and robotic in order to get the most out of their bodies and their spirit. Yeah, that's a good question. I think it relates to the, to what we were talking about before. I suppose about this this notion that everything becomes super like individualized and becomes about the numbers, I guess in high performance sports.

I think that's sometimes what people find a bit dehumanizing about sport, the very elite level is it becomes about, you know, granular tracking of particular kind of metrics and then constant lab testing and you become, I suppose it's easy to start to feel a little bit like a machine. I suppose if you're in that kind of high performance environment. So what I'm trying to say is it in Ethiopia, they they're performing at very much the highest level that there is to perform at without any of those kinds of interventions. But they were also, I think what's interesting is a lot of, I guess a lot of athletes, endurance runners, for example, in the UK, they wouldn't see their primary motivation for running as being economic to make money. Um, whereas in Ethiopia, because I think a lot of, a lot of people say, you know, that I wouldn't be running like this if it wasn't for the, you know, vague chance of making a life changing amount of money.

What it means is that there then therefore very uh they're kind of aware that running can be quite boring sometimes already and that they're doing it for a particular reason and therefore they're constantly trying to think of loads of ways of making it more interesting and more fun because they, they're aware of it as a potential source of boredom from the start. So that's, and I think some of the communal running as well, um that's also a way of making it more fun and more enjoyable. So they'll, you know, we'll meet up in the morning at quarter to six, it'll be a different person leading the run each day. People would deliberately try and find the most ridiculous route through the forest that they could find in order, I think, to keep things interesting. Um so we would kind of weave in and out of trees in the forest. We'd run up slopes that were kind of so steep, that would be kind of pulling ourselves up with our hands on tree roots. Sometimes you have guys who would go and look for the hyenas in the forests just to kind of have something interesting happen on the run.

Um and then we would do things sometimes like get up at three in the morning to go and do hill reps and I think a lot of these things were to do with, you know, I don't think many sports scientists would suggest getting up in the middle of the night to go and run up and down the hill, but there was like a certain kind of power that they felt they derived from that, from doing something a bit different from doing something that was creative or adventurous, that were seen as having a kind of power in its own right. I think we talked to a lot of high performing athletes on this show uh based in the United States in particular, and a lot of them want to hedge their running careers, I would say where um it's something that they do outside of like a traditional 9 to 5 and, you know, they try to get that olympic trials qualify, for example, they try to, you know, push their limits all in the context of having, like, a discrete working life and then also having this running piece. And I was struck by how, um in this book, so many of these runners were seeing this all encompassing committed lifestyle as being essential.

They had to be completely dedicated to the craft in order to be changed. And maybe most um, interesting to me is how much they embrace downtime, how much they embrace energy conservation, they trust their minds to hold back when they need to hold back. I think there's such a fear in the west that um if if you're left to your own devices, if you're if you go all in as a runner that you're just gonna get injured, you're just gonna burn out really quickly. So it's more of a comment. But do you have any do you have any thoughts on those two differences there as well? Yeah. Yeah. So people would say they definitely described running as their job that was like, you know, I'm a runner and that's my work and it's as you say, completely all encompassing. So to give you kind of an average day um in the life of one of these guys would be getting up at um 4 30 in the morning, getting on a bus, going somewhere outside of the city to train, coming back at maybe 10 30 11 o'clock in the morning, eating, then sleeping for maybe three or four hours Um running again and then eating and then going to bed at like 9:00.

It was like, so for them it's very clearly no time in the day to do anything apart from from running and to focus on running. Um one of the things that was interesting was that because I was obviously researching my PhD while I was in Ethiopia as well as training, um I would train in the morning and then I'd usually be going off to interview somebody or type up field notes and things like that in the afternoon. Um, and there were guys who says, you know, once you've done this, got this PhD out the way, come back and just do what we do exactly what we do and sleep when we sleep and don't think about writing a book or anything and you can run to 9 to 8, something like that. And this is bearing in mind that, you know, I've run to 20, that's like, that seems to be my limit. They seriously thought that if I made those lifestyle changes, it would make that kind of difference. Like not sure it would have done, but, but yeah, it's interesting. I think um, I don't, I guess, I don't know enough about all the different american distance runners to know, but I think probably the top ones are all completely full time.

Right? A lot of them are, Yeah, and they'll be affiliated also to their credit, they will be affiliated with, you know, co located training groups as well, like the Hansons distance project. Um, you know, the list goes on. Yeah, Yeah, I think it depends, I think a lot of it depends on the individual as well. I remember I talked to Charlie spending about this who is um, the last British gold medalist, last British medalist in the Olympic marathon in the 80's and he said he went when he went fully pro for a year, He just trained like three times a day did too much and he actually preferred having the structure of having a job and training around him. Um so I guess some of it is kind of individual um comes down to individual difference as well, but they definitely in Ethiopia, it was definitely the case that they thought that to be, you know, truly elite athlete, you had to had to be all you were doing. Yeah, There is an interesting history of amateurism in the us to like, I mean, Bill Rodgers is a famous example of like he was a he was a teacher and you know, he would run commute as a significant part of his training to work each day to get the miles in each week and um you know, he reached the height of the sport back in the 70s here.

Um couple more questions. Another thing that struck me in this book is the Ethiopian reaction to success. And you talk about how uh a lot of them where their ambition quote lightly in these moments of, you know, breakthrough and success on the highest stage is why is that the case? It's largely down to religious belief basically. So, as I was saying before, there's this sense that for the Orthodox christians at least most of the guys in the group that I was in were orthodox christians, they tended to believe that God had a plan for how their life was going to unfold, which meant that yeah, they if they if they wanna race, they would take that quite lightly. But also if they if the opposite happened. So if I went to races with guys quite frequently and, you know, went to Istanbul to run a race with them, went to china to run races. And if people just, you know, get people who would DNF after 10-K and I'd expect them to be totally, you know, in despair, at least quite upset having trained for it for four months.

And they would just be like, well, it wasn't my day today, it's clearly like the plan isn't for it to happen today is for it to happen at some other point. So psychologically it was. And so the group that I was with were all represented by a manager, a european manager. Um and he would find that that kind of reaction quite frustrating, having gone to the, you know, having organized the race for them, got a visa, all this kind of stuff. But it was just, yeah, they had a sense of, you know, you prepare as well as you can, you do, you do what you you do your best in the race, but there's only so much control that you have personally over what happens because they more or less all believe that it was kind of God at the end of the day, had the had the final say on what would happen. I think the last question I have for you, obviously you were there for at least 15 months from what I gather from the book embedded training with them, understanding the culture, et cetera. How have you personally, in your running life, been influenced by their environment and their philosophy, Like, what are the things that you took back with you to the U.

K, because you're you're an accomplished runner yourself? And so I think this is an interesting thing to think about. Yeah, actually, one of the things that I did, when I came back from Ethiopia was I asked the coach there to write me a training plan that I could use in the UK, um and what was interesting about that was that it came the first thing on each of the training sessions was the surface that he wanted me to run on. So, um that was this kind of idea that you you work by the environments first and then think about the training sessions next, I suppose. So, when I was following his trading program, I ended up doing tons of running on golf courses in Edinburgh, because that was the, that kind of, it was the environment that most closely mimics the kind of surface that we would be doing most of the easy running on in Ethiopia. So, I was kind of ended up having to dodge golf balls a lot of the time following that training program, but more generally, I think, um you've got very, very big polarization in Ethiopia between the easy runs and the rest of the training.

So easy runs sometimes were eight minutes per kilometer, nine minutes per kilometer through the forests. And this is for guys who are racing, you know, under under three minutes per kilometer. So, um yeah, this idea that you've got to take the easy sessions incredibly easy to do well. Um unfortunately, the, the kind of group training thing, I think that I do think that's like, you know, really, one of the most important things over there that's not been possible really to replicate back in the UK, because there's not many places that have, you know, even 5 to 20 marathon runners in the same place. So it's harder to replicate that kind of thing. But I think more generally, just, I guess what I was talking about in terms of people embracing this more creative kind of, adventurous side they're running, it's just that it's really reminded me to um there's not really much point in making running miserable, so to just try and try and come up with interesting new training sessions as often as possible, not necessarily running up and down the hill at three in the morning, but at least kind of, you know, mixing things up and trying to, trying to come up with sessions that actually make you feel kind of excited, two or three days in advance, that you kind of come up with this thing and um and and yeah, not just get stuck in this habit of kind of doing the same thing over and over again and and becoming forward and disillusioned, I guess.

Right on Well, mike, it's been an absolute pleasure to chat. Great to have you on the show. The book is called out of thin air running wisdom and magic from above the clouds in Ethiopia. We'll make sure to link to it in the show notes as well as the rest of your social media. Is there anything that you want to leave the listeners with in terms of final thoughts or calls to action before we go? No, I don't think so, thank you very much for having me on. It's been a pleasure. Thanks for listening to the run to the top podcast. I'm your host, Finn Melanson. As always our mission here is to help you become a better runner with every episode. Please consider connecting with me on instagram at Wasatch Finn and the rest of our team at Runners connect. Also consider supporting our show for free with a rating on the Spotify and Apple podcast player. And lastly, if you love the show and want bonus content behind the scenes experiences with our guests and premier access to contests and giveaways and subscribe to our newsletter by going to runner to connect dot net back slash podcast until next time.

Happy training

Fascinating Training Lessons From Ethiopian Marathon Runners
Fascinating Training Lessons From Ethiopian Marathon Runners
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