Running with (two) Kenyans

How much longer do we have to run? I am tired and hungry. Are we nearly finished?

These were the words that Joan said to me, whilst looking up – with pleading eyes – while we waited for Tom, who was leading our early morning group run, to return from trying to find Peter, another member of our group who we had apparently dropped some time before. I am sorry to have to admit that I lacked sympathy for Joan.

After all, she is a 32:30 10km runner.

I told Joan that we didn’t have too much more to do and promised that we could all have a coffee and something to eat once we had completed the last couple of miles.

What was I doing coaxing an elite athlete to carry on running?

Two elite runners... and me!
Two elite runners… and me!

Last week I received an email from my friend Tom Payn, who works as an athlete manager at RunFast, asking me if I would like to join him and a couple of the athletes that he is hosting in London, for a run on Hampstead Heath. I jumped at the chance. After all, it is a long-held dream of mine to go to the Rift Valley and see what it is like to be amongst the best distance runners in the world. That is not likely to happen anytime soon, so them coming to me seemed like a perfect solution.

The run was scheduled to start at 6:30am, which I was happy with that as I’m usually up way before that anyway and it would mean that the run was done and dusted in time for me to have breakfast before the start of the working day.

I must admit that I was a bit nervous – what if the definition that I have of an ‘easy run’ and the definition that a 32:30 10km runner has of an easy run, were different? Well, as it turns out, they were, but not in the way I was fearing!

The other person that came for the run was Peter Emase, a 62 minute half marathon runner who had recently returned from winning the Madrid half marathon in a new course record. He actually seemed to be even slower than Joan on the morning we ran together, probably because he was happy to wait for her.

However all joking aside, these two athletes really did take the concept of easy or recovery running seriously and a couple of times, as Peter ran up past Tom and I – hardly breaking a sweat whilst in a full tracksuit – I saw how effortlessly he and Joan move over the ground which left me in no doubt that I was in the presence of really great runners.

Lovely people AND great runners

It was lovely to talk to Joan and Peter. They seem to really enjoy what they do (aside from Joan complaining about being hungry!) and they seemed to be very happy to have a slightly out-of-shape Brit along for a run. They both seemed very relaxed about their racing plans for the future although Tom told me that both of them take their running seriously and have great futures.

For me, just meeting two runners like Joan and Peter increased how much I would love to go to Kenya or Ethiopia one day to see how these athletes live and train when they are at home. I know that it is too late for me to get any benefit from a trip like that, but I’d still love to see the best athletes in the world of endurance running do what they do best. Hampstead Heath on a Wednesday morning is lovely, but it isn’t quite Iten!

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