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Running the Ugandan Way - Part 2

Training with the next generation of athletic talent in Kapchorwa, Uganda

Last week was a programme of easy runs & stretching to prepare the athletes who were competing in the Ugandan National Cross Country Championships in Tororo.

The group return from the competition somewhat disappointed with their performances. They really needn't be, almost all are at the younger end of the junior spectrum (even without opening the can of worms regarding unreliable age documentation for junior athletes).

All but one of the group finish inside the top 30 (the two girls who race both finish in the top 15). With most of them still having several more years to compete in this age category, their time to shine will surely come.

Training Programme

Monday & Tuesday - Recovery / Easy Run

The runners are left to their own devices for a few days after the competition. Some take complete rest while others still go out for 40-80 minute easy runs on their own.

Wednesday - Easy Run

After the break, not all runners return to the group. This sometimes happens after a competition as the interest level and commitment drops (before rapidly increasing next time there is the opportunity of a race on the horizon).

For those individuals whose dedication is unwavering, it's a 50 minute easy run at 9:10 min / mi. The runners then lead their own stretching session (coaching interventions are now decreasing as they become more comfortable with the exercises).

ugandan runner guides a tourist during a morning run in Kapchorwa, Uganda

Thursday - Long Run

The apathy of some of the group means we are late to set off for our long run. However, two of the most focused juniors, Isaac and Nasta are itching to get going. We pause by the side of the road as a giant herd of athletes containing Stephen Kiprotich and Jacob Kiplimo heads into the hills. Shortly after, Joshua Cheptegei glides effortlessly by on an easy run following his return from winning the Herculis 5km in Monaco.

During the run I discuss pacing long runs with Isaac and ask how the young athletes here learn to pace their long efforts. "Easy but Hard" is his reply. Which I love.

Long Run: 18km / 11.2 miles (8:08 min / mi)

Friday - Easy Run

The weather is slowly beginning to turn and we are starting to see some rain (which means less dust - win!). After a heavy downpour overnight, my usual 6am climb up to the school is even slower than normal, my feet sticking to the mud in the darkness.

When I arrive, Isaac asks if he can select the route for the Friday easy run, excitedly eying the steep climb to the forest that sits ominously behind him. I reluctantly agree and we tiptoe slowly upward. After 40 minutes of steep climbing, I remind him that the session is supposed to be for 50 minutes. He smirks and suggests we turn around and head back down. After 70 minutes and almost 400 metres of elevation gain, we make it back to the start. I chuckle as I consider how far apart we are with our idea of what constitutes an 'easy' run.

'Easy' Run: 11.3km 70 mins (10:00 min / mi) - 392m of elevation gain

Saturday - Speedwork: Fartlek

Before the main course, we spend some time talking about efficient form and practicing a few new technique drills. As the number of athletes has been on the low side this week, we decide to introduce the younger groups to their first fartlek session. They seem to enjoy the variety and we pull them out after a few repetitions once a) they've got the general idea and b) it dawns on them that flat out sprinting every rep leads to a world of discomfort.

East African Fartlek (1:1 - 1 minute effort / 1 minute rest)

20-35 reps dependent on age group. The older athletes complete each rep at 4:40-5:00 minute mile pace

Sunday - Rest Day

Sleep, church and chores as applicable...

Week Training Stats

Volume: 72.5km / 45 miles*

Elevation Gain: 1468m / 4816 feet

* based on programme for 18 y/o (m) group

To be continued...

One last thing...

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