Wednesday, 14 September 2011

TaD on Tour: Why have we come to Kenya?

TaD on Tour: Why have we come to Kenya?
‘TaD’ meaning, Tom-and-Dougie, was coined during a memorable warm-weather training trip in Portugal in the Spring of 2010. It has since all got out of hand and it appears now to denote some kind of mystical union that has created an unstoppable whole. It’s so ridiculous, so cringe inducing, and so charged with childish humour that it has inevitably stuck. TaD is one, wherever T is, D is. Or at least so it goes.
Sitting in Nairobi Airport, TaD had a good chat over a coffee as to the purpose of the trip. It was about 11 am and TaD was 3 hours into a 10 hour wait until his second flight (Nairobi to Iten). For TaD, travelling from the North to Heathrow (Terminal 3), the day before had been a bit of a slog. The in-flight entertainment system, in particular the 2-player ‘bowling’ game, had created all sorts of physical and emotional turmoil.
It is hard to disentangle the many number of reasons that have brought us to Kenya. We are aged 23, and have both graduated. This time last year I, was content to slip straight in to a postgraduate course and was strongly contemplating a fifth year at St Andrews. Dougie, however, began throwing out some talk of a TaD running tour. What better way, the argument went, could a young athletic male spend a year of his hitherto responsibility-free life, than pursue his favourite pastime uninhibited by duties to work or study? I needed little convincing and after considering purely ‘warm-weather’ locations in Europe and even the USA, our eyes settled on Kenya which promised adventure and athletics at an unbeatable cost.
At the point of making this decision I was in the process of recovering from surgery on my left heel. I needed to have the operation in order to remove a ‘chronically inflamed’ bursar and bone growth in the area between my heel bone and the base of the Achilles tendon. That was October 2010. In the 12 months before that TaD embarked upon a fantastic and fearsome training regime involving a reasonably high mileage at a reasonably high intensity. TaD would never lay claim to being an ‘elite’ athlete. TaD doesn’t do superlatives, but TaD loves running, and running hard. The plan of action was for me to be back training full tilt, T alongside D, that is, by Christmas 2010. By the time of the Kenya trip, we hoped, we would be ready to employ some old school winter-training methods high up in the Kenyan hills away from the UK racing scene.
For me, this hasn’t really happened and, after further medical interference with my heel (cortisone injection in June 2011), I am only just at a stage where the area is pain-free. Strength and flexibility in that area of my left leg are still lacking.
In the meantime, over the summer, Dougie managed to pick up a BUCS bronze medal in the 5000m and a Scottish Champs silver medal in the 1500m. Needless to say, with Dougie on a upwards trajectory towards more pb’s and medals, and myself battling to come back from a 12 month lay-off, we are both in a very different situation with regards to our running. My goal over the next 3 months is to begin the slow and gradual process of getting my body into a strong and healthy condition to enable me to begin loading the mileage at some time in the future. A year out with injury has made me realise that the most important thing to me is, first and foremost, simply to get back running pain-free. Iten, at nearly 2,500m, where lifestyles are simple, and where athletics is the heart-beat, provides the perfect environment for this.
Since making the decision to get ‘out to Africa’ I have, in turn, become increasingly interested in studying the continent from an academic perspective. This is with a view to using my experiences in Kenya  to form a foundation of knowledge that will assist me in the postgraduate education I wish to pursue. Throughout the coming year I will be researching material that I can use in a Masters or PhD course relating to the culture, society and history of Africa upon returning to the UK. Perhaps this may help me get some kind of a job in the future.
So, here on the ground, in Nairobi Airport TaD, tired and achy, yet brimming with enthusiasm for what the next 90 days hold, sit in a hospital-esque boarding gate. He was now fully equipped with a Kenyan phone and SIM card, and had his water bottle and snacks for the flight at the ready. After a brief glance around the room it seemed quite possible to TaD that four or five of the lean black figures around him could easily be proficient long distance runners. Indeed, he had already encountered a 14.10 5000m guy who checked his boarding pass.

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