Wednesday, 27 November 2013 18:11

BRATs Abroad in Ethiopia!

BRATs in Ethiopia

Last week saw the lucky BRAT Birmingham Half Marathon club challenge winners travel to Ethiopia for their once-in-a-lifetime adventure.  The international athletes representing the club were: Daniel Robinson, Chris Ashford, Karl Welborn, Nick Lewis, Mark Lawlor, Michael Dymond, Yaz Chaudhri, Jen Coxon, Tona Walder, Eloise Lee, Becky Hair, Hannah Irvine and Sam Rose.

The train delegation was first to arrive at the airport; the London Underground portion of the journey proving a particular challenge to public transport-phobic Karl. Chris, the top triathlete of the trip, made a swift decision to swim across from Belfast and then cycle the latter portion of the commute to Heathrow, due to a broken down taxi and delayed connecting flight. Controversially the remainder of the elite athletes arrived at the airport in something called a car.

We had a civilised and carbohydrate laden dinner at an Italian chain restaurant before boarding. The older members of the group wouldn't allow token U23 Yasmin to have a cocktail, unaware that although a number of decades younger than some of the vets, she is over the legal drinking age (physically, if not mentally).

We arrived in Addis after a relaxing 8-hour flight, to be greeted by Rob Walker and his film crew. Sam and Nick leapt in front of the cameras attempting to ensure that they will be the stars of an upcoming Channel 4 programme about the event. The editors may well have other plans.

The bus ride each day was to be a 45-90 minute journey to Yaya Village (depending on mechanical mishap and military stop and strip search). Breakfast was up when we arrived; pancakes, scrambled eggs, roast veg and porridge. Then it was time to get stuck into some exercise. Or in the case of several of the more prudent, get some sleep. Karl, Nick and Mark blasted out a tempo session, despite oxygen saturation readings that would normally denote life-threatening hypoxia. In the afternoon the whole group had a training session at the track with Keninisa Bekele. Given his pedigree on that surface, just the 3 Olympic and 5 world championship gold medals not to mention world records, this was a terrifying prospect. Luckily after a few sedate laps he decided that a bit of cross country was a better bet - only the 11 world titles to worry about in that discipline so the group set off with some confidence. As the pace picked up, the number of BRATs hanging on to Bekele dwindled quickly - it was each man (or woman) for himself; as long as we were back before dark when the hyenas came out... the man himself was entirely unperturbed, chatting away at 6 minute mile pace on his recovery run, apparently too relaxed to actually breath. Luckily the entire group made it back with no one unaccounted for and the bar had been set very high from the outset. Dan was disappointed with only managing a measly 13 miles on Day 1 at 2700m altitude.

On the Friday we were up late for a 6am run with Richard Nerurkar (reigning British 10 mile record holder), and Priscah Jeptoo. Priscah was suitably apprehensive about her form after a disappointing season where she only won the London and New York Marathons and the Great North run in 2013. With that sort of background she was lucky the BRAT ladies took pity on her and fell respectfully in step to avoid any awkwardness during the post run photo call. We then went to the Great Ethiopian Run press conference led by Richard. The Nova lunch was at an art gallery, where ferocious carb-loading continued. We then went to the Ornithological museum at the university and St George's Cathedral. Those with excess testosterone squeezed in another training session, while the girls went for the nap option. We then went for a traditional Ethiopian banquet, with music and dancing. Elite runner Dan stayed firmly on the soft drinks, while the mass-runners had a cheeky bevvie or two.  The wild members of the team boogied on down into Addis until the early hours of the morning and have since been in touch to ensure that both innocent and guilty are spared by certain details being kept on tour.

The lads plus Yaz were up at sunrise on Saturday for another morning leg-loosener, before finding out the children's races we were going to watch at 9am had been cancelled. Becky-"I'm an F'ing Geordie"-Hair amazingly made it out of bed in time for our bus trip to the gift shop. We managed to haggle our way through most of the tat. Nick was very pleased with his bargain "Abibs" (much higher quality than the cheap imitation Adidas brand) football shirt. We were back for lunch and then an England vs Ethiopia football match unusually long at two hours and incredibly won by the pasty and unfit, and yet another run. Eloise and Yaz went for a gentle stroll into the village where they were mobbed by hoards of children and Yaz ran home in terror while Eloise photographed the onslaught. In the evening we once again joined Haile  for further excessive fuelling at the pasta party.

Sunday morning was the big event. Breakfast (for those who had escaped the food poisoning; query source) was at 06:45, with the bus into Addis at 07:15. We were dropped off by the security guards, who searched us and took our water, one of the more surreal approaches to a mass participation event in blazing heat. We then walked through the sea of enthusiastic local participants towards the start. It was impossible not to be energised and a clichéd "electric atmosphere" description couldn't even begin to convey the excitement levels.

Overly ambitious and soon to be veteran runner, Dan Robinson, fresh from a "horrendous" (33minute) 10k performance at sea level was meanwhile limbering up to join 400 world class locals, born and trained at altitude in the elite start. He at least had the sense to make his way to the back of that group only to be met by a Canadian international who casually mentioned that he "only" ran 30 minutes for 10k and was concerned that 8 weeks hadn't been long enough to acclimatise. With Robinson suitably boosted in confidence, the race got underway with a surprise start and within 30 seconds the entire women's elite field seemed to ease past from behind. Despite practically chanting out loud a "hold back until halfway" mantra, the first km was passed in 3:10 with the front of the race well out of sight. The inevitable followed and after climbing what Haile had described as slight inclines (MOUNTAINS! - Dan's Central Governor) in the second half he was duly unable to stand up in the changing afterwards, mumbling incoherently about not coming last as he lay prostrate being repeatedly photographed by a sympathetic Eloise.

Meanwhile, the BRAT A team (Chris, Mark, Nick, Karl, Yaz, Eloise, Tona & Hannah) joined the mass start after the initial front-of-the-pack riot squad had passed. The group danced their way round the (debatably) 10km course, with a number of pit-stops for regrouping, vomiting, photo opportunities and admirer-collecting. The team had a strong finish in 53 minutes; only 10-20 minutes off PB times. The BRAT D&V (Becky, Sam, Jen & Michael) team took an even more leisurely pace, but still all managed a staggering sub-2 hour time.

Buzzing with adrenaline after undoubtedly the most exhilarating "race" any of us had experienced, it was back to Yaya for a nap or gym session, for those who didn't push quite hard enough in the race (turboman-Chris, camel-goat-Karl, elite-Robinson and baby-Yasmin).

Having recovered from the legal high of the race the group were whisked off to Haile's hilltop mansion where the man himself greeted us, with incredible warmth. He was the perfect host, offering a cocktail of unidentified painkillers and Johnnie Walker Black Label to the more delicate in the party and chatting openly and enthusiastically. Haile single handedly disproves the theory that you should never meet your heroes. Having finally proven his worthiness he was allowed to be pictured in a BRAT vest with the team before we pretended to be impressed by his meagre medal collection. With everyone left pinching themselves at what we had just had the honour of experiencing, we made our way back down the hill to reflect on a day that had delivered so much more than we could have expected.

Thank you to everyone involved in the organization of this incredible experience. We really do feel so privelidged to have been given this opportunity, which we will never forget. We were so proud to represent BRAT in this way.

By Yaz Chaudhri (supervised by Dan Robinson)

Photo by Dan Vernon

Some quotes from the team:

Tona Walder: "The Great Ethiopian Run itself was the most awe inspiring event i have ever been involved in. The Ethiopian charm, enthusiasm, and sense of fun was overwhelming evident through out the whole race. It was a special occasion that i was proud to experience with my BRAT Team mates, and will never forget."

Karl Welborn: "My highlights are vast, in fact since my short time back in the UK I have been bombarded with the question "what was it like" my answer "I can't actually describe it in words" I have spouted words amazing, phenomenal, unreal etc... But this doesn't scratch the surface of what your senses experience when you are actually there in real time.... The race is totally breath taking, full of colour, music, smiles and fun. I consider myself so lucky to have been involved and mostly I am proud to be a BRAT - we started this adventure together when we won and it was a proud moment to finish it together when we all crossed the finish line arms around each other in union."

Don't miss: The Great Ethiopian Run on Channel 4 Saturday 7 December.
Rob Walker presents highlights of the Africa's biggest road race, with commentary from Stuart Storey. Over 38,000 entrants race through Addis Ababa in a unique spectacle. And this year featuring the BRAT Club.

Published in Running News
Saturday, 22 June 2013 09:50

Severn AC White Horse 5k

Severn AC White Horse 5k - Gloucester - Tuesday 18/6/13

Gloucester may seem a long way to go for a packet of biscuits but we were determined to get some! Three of us from the Thursday night track group Martin Cleaver, Ben Beaumont and myself (Martin Ludford) had run the first White Horse 5k race in May and although generally pleased with our times, we had returned home biscuitless. (All the prizes being packets of biscuits!).

As you probably realise the White Horse 5k races are real grassroots, no-frills evening Club races organised by Severn AC on quiet country lanes and cost just a fiver to enter. They have the additional advantage of being run on a really fast flat course with an official measurement certificate, so PB’s are officially recognised.

So for the second race of the series we strengthened the squad with the addition of Raggy Gray and Eloise Lee and set off down the M5 after work. Sadly Ben had to sit this one out due to shin splints but still came along to support and take photos. The new strategy worked a treat and we came home with PBs and biscuits galore!

Eloise Lee was 4th woman home and got one of the good packets (almost a box!) of biscuits along with a PB of 19,06. Raggy ran an impressive 17,34 to win the M50 age group and a decent packet of biscuits. Martin Cleaver ran a massive PB of 18,45 (though sadly no biscuits for him in the Senior Men category) while Martin Ludford won the M55 age group in 19,11 to earn a somewhat basic packet of biscuits and although this is not a PB, it is certainly a best for this millennium. So we headed back up the motorway with the spoils, feeling pretty pleased with ourselves and wondering if we can go even better next time.  

People travel some distance to run these races and they have now become so popular that the organisers have had to limit the entry to 100 for each race. Anyone planning to run now needs to enter in advance to be sure of a place. There are 2 more races left in this season’s series so plenty more packet of biscuits up for grabs!

See for results and information on future races.

Published in Running News
Wednesday, 17 April 2013 20:24

Masters Road Relays 2013

Hello old team mates.  Here we go again……Read no further if you are under 35 on 18 May, unless you are into cardigans with food stains and slippers. (I prefer a rustic brown cardi myself.)  Enough banter.  TEAM ENTRIES HAVE TO BE IN BY 20 APRIL and I need to decide which age groups we enter teams. I just need a YES or PROBABLE at this stage. You do not have to commit, just give me an idea so I can decide on the number of teams and age groups.  Sutton Park, Saturday 18 May,pm.  (No direct busses for those with passes, but plenty of blue badge parking. Park help available for qualifying persons.)  All 3 mile legs.  After our brilliant performances last year, lets have another go.  Stats to follow when I get a response. Yours, last man standing.  See forum for contact details - Richard Gray.

Published in Running News
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