The Home Straight: One week to go
Yesterday we savoured our last ‘Mazungo Sunday’: morning training followed by a brunch of chapatis, tea, avocado, eggs and banana and an afternoon at Kerio view. A simple but incredibly gratifying weekly dose of relaxation. This time next week we will be on our flight back to London. We’re travelling to Nairobi on Sunday by matatu (minibus): a little less comfortable way of spending a day. Sunday night will be our last night in Kenya. Without hesitation I can say that I am really looking forward to going home.
There are definitely things here that I will miss. Most of all I will miss leading a very simple (and arguably self-indulgent!) life of 24/7 training and relaxing. Since arriving in mid-September I have managed to train three times a day every day (except for Sunday) without interruptions. No commitments, no work-related pressure, no exams. It is perhaps for these reasons that I haven’t once felt ill or tired. I’ve been able to direct all of my concentration on my training and move closer to my main goal of ridding myself of injury and getting back into good shape again after 12 months of interrupted training and injury. I think the regimented regime of training, eating, and sleeping at the same time each day, at the same intervals, has given added benefit to the activities I’ve been doing.
Just as living amongst hundreds of full-time runners is very conducive to this way of life, living amongst hundreds of full-time ‘workers’ back in the UK creates an environment in which it is very difficult to justify just training! Here in Iten you can spend all of your time training or sleeping and be completely free of guilt because it is perceived as being a meaningful use of time: running is not considered leisure-time but, as our neighbour Julius said, ‘a serious business.’ If these arguments appear to be a little too thought-out it is because I am anticipating the inevitable requests to do some housework ‘since I’m not doing anything else’ when I get back home.
To reassure all of those who knew me before I embarked on the last three months: despite revelling in my seclusion and single-mindedness, I haven’t turned into ‘Boo Radley’ and I am looking forward to a good Christmas back at home. I’m not sure I can say the same about Dougie: when left alone in our dark and dingy apartment for a few hours on Friday he made a disturbingly inventive advent calendar ‘the Tadvent Calendar’ to count down our last few days in Kenya:
Hard at work
Bad spelling but a great effort
Christmas songs are now also a daily feature but try as we might we can’t really generate the same levels of festivity that you get back at home at this time of the year.
Pangs for home hit me every now and again when I abstract a task or activity that I’m doing that has come to appear ‘normal.’ For instance, after one particularly wet and muddy training session last week I was going about my usual washing process- of crouching over a basin of freezing cold water in our ‘washroom’ trying to splash and soap myself simultaneously- and, although I do this every day, I just caught myself thinking ‘what the hell am I doing?’ The same sentiment hit me and Dougie together on Monday when, in the middle of what turned out to be a 24hour power cut, we were sitting, in the dark, in our ‘living room’ with only the dying light of a headtorch that was running out of battery power, in silence because the torrential rain was making too loud a noise on our tin roof. At times like this you just have to laugh.
To an extent I’ll miss living a life that is so connected to the environment. Paradoxically, there is something quite liberating about being so dependent upon the whims of the weather, about planning when you do your washing, about just heading out to training in whatever conditions the world throws at you and trying to cope with it however you can. Just little things as well, like drinking fresh milk produced by the local cow and waking up just when it gets light and going to bed as it gets dark, make the life here feel wholesome. It must be said, though, that my relationship with Mother Nature has been strained, to say the least, in the last couple of weeks when the rains- which everybody expected to die off- picked up. Roads have been closed, paths are non-existent. Every morning at 5.45am I wake up to the sound of the rain battering the roof and I just have to put my coat on, head out the door and suck it up.
Mother Nature at her finest
Destruction to the paths wrought by the rain
Observed by a lizard whilst writing the blog at KV
This week TaD welcomed British runner Nick Swinburn to Iten. It’s good to feed off the energy of an enthusiastic new arrival at a time when our pining for home could have reached new heights. It’s likely that Nick will take on our apartment and look after it whilst we are away. This is another thing about Iten that I will miss dearly: the community spirit. Whether it’s the Kenyan people, the fact that there are a lot of runners, or because it’s a small town, I don’t really know but Iten is undoubtedly one of the safest and friendliest places I have ever experienced. Young Kipsang happily makes himself at home in our apartment and our neighbours are always around to help out (if there’s a water shortage or a power cut). Most importantly there always seem to be a few good lads around to spend your downtime with, to go for lunch with, to entrust your property to etc etc. It was good having Dan and Myles here when we arrived and it was good to welcome new faces- especially the Kiwis- as the trip went on.
TaD is still going very strong. So strong, in fact, that the trip has been described by one member of TaD, who will remain nameless, as 'one long hetrosexual honeymoon.' We've had a great experience but right now, after 12 weeks, I would probably do outrageous things to secure myself a warm house with a carpeted floor, a hot shower, and a big roast dinner.