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Harrington’s Blog: The highs and lows of week 1 in Ethiopia

Blog 2 Ethiopia – “Yes, the operated knee.” Nearly a fall too far.

Chris Harrington’s troublesome knee and high altitude nearly took there toll on the first week in Ethiopia. Here he recounts his story.

Week 1

Claire (wife) and the kids dropped me to the airport- “Goodbye so” she said with a tone of sadness, “No” I replied quickly I’ll see you later” I must admit I had a lump in my throat looking at them all when I got out of the car. It’s a big deal to me, I’m a family man. I’ve never been away from them – maximum a weekend. Not 31 days!

My parting message: “if you want something, if you really want something, as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.” They knew what I meant. I’m forever giving them one liners and examples of how to be positive, go after your dreams and have more confidence in what they do. Sure I’m their Dad, amongst helping them achieve their goals, I’m also here to guide them. Along with my personal goals, my biggest achievement that I’ll ever achieve, will be to be their role model. How can you expect to motivate, inspire, change someone’s life for the better with what you do if you can’t do it in your own home first. Your own home is a great place to start .

The Journey begins! I’ve landed on Ethiopian soil. Beautiful comes straight to mind – the people and the place. Ethiopia’s economy looks booming. On the journey from the airport to my place, there were hotels, roads, rail lines, offices etc being built. Not the Ethiopia I was expecting. Although this is the capital, Addis Ababa.

I’m settling in quite well. Although the first day, I had to get my breath & bearings. Thanks to the other athletes here and their knowledge of the place, they got me right up to speed. I must admit it’s great seeing world class athletes here, some training away with the same goal. Local Ethiopians are running for a better life and others for national pride. It’s just amazing to see in this town of runners how they live and train!

Yaya village

Yaya village

The staff here at the Yaya village are amongst the most friendly I’ve ever met – very helpful, nice, sincere & will always carry a smile. I’m getting on quite well with them all. They’re always up for a laugh.

My first run is upon me, I’m looking forward to getting it started. I’ve had a great night sleep, no sore throat, no pounding headaches, all of which are symptoms of 9000ft of altitude. Maybe I’m a natural (I jest).

“I’ll get up early for a run” I tell the locals, not here they tell me! “Why?”, I asked curiously, “because of de Hyenas my friend. They come out at dark.” I wasn’t one bit worried when I heard that – looks like it’ll be daylight for me so!

This is all I kneed!

This first week nearly came crashing down. A few days in I took a fall that gave my knee a good beating. It swelled up like a balloon, luckily I’ve been only sidelined for one day. The swelling went right down the next day and I could bend it nearly 90 degrees.

The knee post operation

The knee post operation

(Yes, this is the operated knee, yes the operated knee that wiped out the whole of 2013 due to surgery, yes, the knee the doctor said I mightn’t run competitively on, and yes, the knee that I smashed up in 2002 when I had a head on collision with another car. I went out through the windscreen and was, as the doctors told me, extremely lucky to have survived. The crash that day was another turning point in my life. That’s for another day. Through misdiagnosis & 6 months of going to this person and that person, I finally got a proper evaluation from Maurice Nelligan in the Beacon hospital. The Pins and wire bending that had been in my knee for 14 years were screaming to get out! As you can see from the picture, it was a big deal!!!!!)

As you can imagine to be sidelined with an injury here is no joke. All this to come crashing down was near heartbreaking. There’s nothing else to do but train and sleep. Thank God I brought alot of books! A small library infact (Another goal & good habit I’m starting).

The trails in Ethiopia

The trails in Ethiopia

Missing home comforts and challenging running running conditions

This first week I will admit I’m missing my family terrible, Barry’s tea & a good Dairymilk chocolate bar. There are no sweets or luxuries out here. Although the food here where I’m staying is catered for the western food types which is great – 3 meals per day, cooked up to me and served with a smile in basking sunshine. Running is tough but getting better with each passing day. The best way I can describe it on my first few days of training are as follows: you start to run and literally about a mile into it you’re gasping for air, legs & arms are heavy. It’s like coming home in a race with a mile to go. In this case you’re not racing, you’re just going for an easy run. You don’t even want to know about that leg zapping feeling from climbing a hill. Ouch…… This first week I’m wrecked!

The people here are happy and most are care free. We at home could learn a lot from their simplistic way of life & there happy outlook. I suppose having, as they explain it, 13 months of sunshine will give you all the natural vitamin D you’ll ever need. Don’t get me wrong there’s a lot of poverty here too.

We celebrated Christmas Day, Wednesday gone, with a cup of Ethiopia’s purest coffee and fresh bread. None of the materialistic bull at home. On the Christmas morning run we passed people right in front of us, they were half way through, literally chopping up a cow for dinner. That was different. A real life in your face outdoor butchers.
Celebrating Christmas in January, in this heat, is a different feeling. Ah well, I’m in Ethiopia now, their traditions. It’s funny though, they bring in the New Year in September.

P.s. Thanks so far for all the messages of support. I’m overwhelmed & delighted to receive messages from people from all around the world saying because of what I’m doing they are also going after their goals. And some have even started to take up walking after work and others running. Other people are chasing other goals to which I’ll keep private. Some people just need to realise it’s ok to follow your dreams, regardless if you reach them or not. The journey is what makes it the great part!

That alone is after making my trip all the worthwhile!

Brian Gregan and John Travers above at Penn Relays will compete in the NB Games alongside Mark English and Ciarán Ó Lionáird
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Feidhlim Kelly

Feidhlim Kelly

Con Houlihan once told me that tomorrow is now. In taking on this venture I’ve started to try and put his words into action.

I worked for Con from 2007 till his passing in 2012 taking down his copy and a whole lot more. I have a Con Houlihan section which will go in to more depth on that.

I’m a long-time contributor to the Irish Runner magazine and am also working for the Irish Examiner.

8 Comments

  1. Robert Leahy
    January 9, 2015 at 9:07 pm — Reply

    Just read week one there and look forward to next blog. Fair play chris your after coming a long way since accident.keep up the good work and you will be home to family in no time.

    • Chris
      January 10, 2015 at 3:30 am — Reply

      Hi Robert,

      Thanks

  2. Eve
    January 10, 2015 at 9:48 am — Reply

    Hey there Chris !!

    well done lads xx

  3. Brian
    January 10, 2015 at 8:39 pm — Reply

    Great stuff Chris, getting out and getting after the dream! Inspiring!

  4. Chris
    January 11, 2015 at 3:12 am — Reply

    Thanks.

  5. Chris
    January 11, 2015 at 3:13 am — Reply

    Thank you.

  6. ann harrington
    January 11, 2015 at 4:38 am — Reply

    hi son very proud of you well done mind your self x

  7. Ian Heffernan
    January 12, 2015 at 12:08 am — Reply

    Reading your blog,

    You really are following your dream. Fair play and keep up the good work.

    Ian

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