By March the guys were well and truly underway with their training. They would follow a fairly similar plan which consisted of lots of volume and a weekly speed workout, nothing too taxing but enough to avoid the habit of ‘plodding’.
The basic idea is to get them accustomed to running lots of miles, then look at adapting the plan based on ability, strengths, and any upcoming races.
We were building nicely and I was confident of Amos making the 24 hour race I had managed to arrange for him. In conversation with Adharanand Finn (Author of Running With the Kenyans and the great new book Rise of the Ultra Runners) he mentioned that the Belfast 24 hour race were keen on having a Kenyan runner at the race this year, he then kindly put me in touch with Ed Smith the race director. I’d met Ed last year when I’d finished 3rd at the Belfast 24, it would be great to get Amos over there and Ed was keen on making it happen offering a very generous package to secure the appearance of the first Kenyan 24 hour runner. It was exciting!
Amos went over to Tanzania and raced the Kilimanjaro half marathon, a hilly trail half, great speed work for an ultra runner, with a stacked field Amos managed a top 10 place off of no specific half marathon training, he was in good shape.
A few weeks later I sent him to the UTML (Ultra Trail Mount Longonot) a low key 60k trail Ultra over in Kenya consisting of 5 tough mountain loops of 12KM’s, this would be a great test for Amos, his first ultra and a tough one at that. Logistically it was tough to sort, I sent him the money for travel, Kenyans tend to travel in small 8 seat mini busses called ‘matatu’s’ usually with 12+ passengers squeezed in, the journey would take around 8 hours, I also sent some money to buy some gels/drinks but Amos couldn’t manage to find any near the race start so ended up with water and bananas.
The race started at 7am but perhaps due to the long travel the previous day Amos turned up an hour late, he missed the start but was allowed to start late. With the confidence I’ve only seen in a Kenyan, Amos started an hour late and went off at a blistering pace in pursuit of the other competitors with the genuine belief he would catch them.. Unfortunately, the inevitable happened and after 2 laps (24km’s) Amos started to struggle, he kept pushing and ran another lap but that was enough for today, he finished ‘The Fun Run’ a take on the Barkley Marathons 3 looped fun run. It was disappointing for the both of us but he’d learnt a lot from the experience, nutrition and pacing are the downfall of many great runners, barring injury I’d say 99% of DNF’s come down to nutrition or pacing and Amos had learned a valuable lesson from the experience.
I was back in Bulgaria now flitting back and forth to the UK for races and tying the trips in with meetings with potential sponsors and supporters for the guys. I was getting plenty of interest but no commitment, sponsors wanted to see the guys race first but I was struggling to get them out racing without raising the funds from a sponsor, they needed kit, shoes, nutrition, food, that’s before race entries, flights, hotels, visas, etc. I was doing what I could and receiving some extremely kind donations of kit from the Ultra running community.
Rupert Coles was one of the first to contact me offering a Garmin watch, then my good friend David Bone from DazNBone sent a parcel of shoes over, then more donations of kit came in, at the St Illtyds Ultra which I organise I asked for kit donations but wasn’t expecting the amount of stuff that came in, bags, tops, shorts, and a watch, people are generally kind, they want to do what they can to help but these guys were having more of an impact on the lives of poor Kenyans than they could ever know, the running community is truly special!
I also received a couple of offers of investment into the guys, the offers were kind but I was reluctant to take the cash without a clear plan in place to get a return for the investor. My idea with the team is not to make a profit from them, any winnings would go to them, I’m not planning on taking any of their income so I wasn’t sure how investment would work at this time so I politely declined, but there’s nothing to say this couldn’t work in the future, if it was to help speed things along for the team it could be something worth looking into a little more.
For now though, the guys will knuckle down with their training and keep moving along on this incredible journey.
Next time…. April Update