Harrington’s Ethiopian blog: Work Ethic and staying on course

Chris Harrington is well into his journey and training camp in Ethiopia. Here he looks at the work ethic of the people and how he had a mild panic attack when he went off course on a long run.

“Work ethic”

This trip has brought many of my goals I set out to achieve, achieved. It has also given me “self discovery.” It’s opening up my mind to what can be achieved, not just with running, what I’m doing here, where I’m going etc.. I’m in a different world. This is the most relaxed I’ve ever been in my life. Self admittedly, I can be quite hyper, full of energy. To be honest, sitting down and relaxing doesn’t come easy to me. I love to be getting “stuck in,” being out and about working etc. Just the other day I asked the staff could I give them a hand. I really wanted to do some work. They said stop, that they’ll get fired.

I will admit, some days there’s a part of me that feels guilty being out here, nothing but training, recovering in the sun etc. while Claire is at home with the kids. This is just what makes it even better, knowing in my mind that I did leave work & everything I love behind. It’s that burning desire I have inside me that won’t stop until what I set to do, gets done – everything I do, that has always been my way from day one.


Everyday here I see great work ethic amongst most of the Ethiopian people. Maybe this is for another day but I can see clearly the difference between us and Ethiopia. Work ethic, they have in spades. We too as a country used to have it in spades. I feel the generation (xbox, iPod generation) today has lost many of their life skills. Don’t get me wrong, there’s many a hard working person back home. It’s just people’s work ethic has being diluted, we’ve gotten soft. I mean let’s face it, how many people were out playing on their bikes Christmas morning!

The routine of run, eat, sleep might seem like a good time, a holiday as you might see it, but believe me it’s tough. There’s a mental toughness that’s needed. It’s a monkish life! I’m looking over pictures and videos I recorded before I left and quickly they put a smile on my face, an appreciation for what I have in my life. I have suffered with some sleepless nights and a few bad dreams since I’m here, but one can only put it down to the withdrawals of chocolate and Barry’s tea!

The minute you leave the compound here, BANG, the poverty here hits you straight in the face. Kids chasing you and smiling saying “Money money money” I’d love to bring “certain people” I know over here to give them a kick up the ass!

How anyone can moan back home is beyond me. I’ve always had an appreciation of what I have. I never grew up with a silver spoon, moaned or complained about not having. Being here just refreshes my appreciation even more. The workers here are tough people – working on farms from dusk until dawn. Covering hundreds of acres by foot and some by donkey, and if lucky, by horse.

Being in construction, as you can imagine when I see construction going on here, I’m quick to observe and learn new methods if anything should arise! That’s the entrepreneur in me. They build like us. I thought there might be a different system i.e. Some EU countries use a completely different system in their construction methods.

An Ethiopian woman working hard on site

An Ethiopian woman working hard on site

Out here everything is done by hand. Digging out foundations by hand & shovel is not a fun day’s work. I know, I’ve done it plenty of times before. What was different to the usual construction site was the women doing the labouring. These women are small, petite but tough – horsing blocks, mixing concrete by hand (see picture) & carrying drums of water around in 23 degree heat. They’re doing a tough job, and to be honest, I will admit, I would see this as a man’s job. I might ask my wife to go labouring some day. Yes, I think you know the answer to that one: %$=# $#*

The power here can go at anytime and that’s us westerners “goosed.” “Our phones are dead, no social media, how will anyone know what I ate today!” They (Ethiopians) just don’t care. They carry on. Their world, unlike ours, doesn’t stop because of not having an iPhone, Ipad etc.

Saying that, my heart rate strap is a vital piece of kit out here – 9000ft is quite a height. When I did my first long run, the first hour was fine. I was so fixed with the beauty of Ethiopia’s scenic countryside, I suddenly got lost. No lies, I panicked a bit. I thought of if it gets dark, I’m f@@ked. With the heat beating down and my heart rate rising, I just kept running. I won’t even tell you the thoughts that went through my head……Panic stations averted, I found a path that eventually got me back….well over the time I wanted to do. When I got back to camp I was tired but relieved all the same.

I hope you’re well into your way of your new habits & a more positive you. My last blog will be next week. It’s where this journeys ends and a new journey begins.

Remember, the water you have in your tap is clean and drinkable.

Image courtesy of PhotoRun
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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.

1 Comment

  1. Gary
    January 23, 2015 at 10:42 am — Reply

    While I’m enjoying the journey, and am very impressed with the dedication, was kind of hoping it might be a little bit more about the training, impact of high altitude, and value you’re getting from the training camp. Would be great if you could provide some details on how things have been going from a training perspective (and hopefully at a later point in time, the perceived benefit). In any case, it’s been an enjoyable read and thanks for sharing.

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