Running in Lesotho: Take My Breath Away!

Alright, let’s get down to the meat and potatoes of what this blog is all about: RUNNING! Caitlin has graciously offered to let me guest blog and so I don’t want to disappoint by being completely off topic.

My last 4 years of marathon training I’ve been one lucky lady to be training on the Boston Marathon course with a fantastic TEAM – where water stops are abundantly stocked and high fives are currency. Now that I’ve left the embrace of TNT’s mercury-esque wings and have set out on my own, I am reminded of the marathon training I did for my first marathon in 2004. Back in those days I ran alone in Waterville, ME. I wore cotton everything, had no actual running tights, and was fueled by jolly ranchers I duct taped to my thighs and water bottles I strategically placed every 10 miles.

Although brought back to my running youth, running in Lesotho IS and that’s one of the biggest successes so far. As I packed two pairs of running shoes, a stick, and some granola bars into my suitcases back in America, I was a bit nervous knowing there was a possibility that I would not be able to run in Lesotho. Scheduling, safety, and the high altitude were all possible threats to my training.

To put all fears to rest, the second morning here Jen, the other medical student, and I decided to establish a routine of running each morning before work. We are very strongly discouraged from leaving the convent after dark and so running as soon as the sun has begun rising over the mountains seems like the best way to ensure that I will get a run in everyday. There is no telling if work will go late and I don’t want to have to risk missing a run because of darkness. Jen is a great running partner. She is interested in a career in infectious disease which means she is very knowledgeable about a lot of stuff I am not. As we run together, she explains the latest HIV therapies, the value of CD4 counts, infections commonly seen in AIDS patients and the antibiotics we use to treat them. The scenery is absolutely breath taking as the sun rises over the mountains and I cannot help but say to Jen “Really, Lesotho? Really?”. This is not as intelligent conversation as Jen offers, but it’s how I contribute. The terrain is nothing but hills so I am either running up hill or down hill – there is no flat. It’s kind of peculiar that way. We live on the top of a hill so runs end with a kick.

Your move, Heartbreak

Jen and I run together for bit, Jen educates me, and then I “drop” Jen off at the convent and go for a bit on my own to get some extra miles. The roads are usually lined with people. Many children on their way to school. It’s quite amazing. When I run at home in Maine I may see one or two people on foot – MAYBE. But here I see over 100 people easily in 30 minutes. I had to change my running attire recently. I was informed that wearing shorts is too scandalous as they show some of these thunder thighs, so I have switched to capri length running tights with shorts over them. It’s not the worst compromise by any means, but it’s still summer in Africa and I would prefer to wear shorts. That whining being done, overall the temperature is cool when we start running and I am content during the 5:30 am runs.

Saturday was my first long run. Back home, the TEAM ran 16 miles. I’ve decided to gage my runs by time as I am not sure how far I am actually running and I can definitely feel the high altitude when I get going. There was talk about going for a 3 hr hike on Saturday (perhaps another blog entry!) so I decided to transition into my long run by running

Mango mania!

for 2 hrs with follow up 3 hr hike. Originally, I was going to run for 1 hr north then turn around and run 1 hr back. Friday night, after chowing down on some butternut squash soup and mangoes (both of which tend to move and groove through the system while running…),  I started to think twice about  running straight into the unknown countryside far far away from a bathroom. I settled upon doing a loop near the convent three times – and added a run up a mountain/hillside to spice things up during the last portion of the run. The plan is to eventually run up the rocky part of the mountain (not quite sure how) but that was overkill for the first long run.

Saturday, I could feel the burn within the first hour and I was ready to stop. BUT, as long as my legs will keep going so will I. I finished the run completely winded as I ran up the hill to the convent. It was different running alone but it was fantastic as well: the weather was perfect and the scenery was too. I wish I could transport my team to Lesotho so they could experience the run (and bring me some GU, which I stupidly forgot in America) but for now I will have to settle for the wonderfully detailed e-mails Caitlin sends me about team practice and the pictures I am taking to show you and the team in return.

(Ed note: TEAM misses you too, lady):

Photo via Boston Globe

One thought on “Running in Lesotho: Take My Breath Away!

  1. Shalom Anna!
    Glad things are working out with training so far. Sounds amazing and not too dissimilar from my experience here in Israel. Beatiful and crazy hilly runs here. Brought all my three-quarter length tights. Your picture above is quite similar to the cliffs between the dead sea (the lowest place on earth) and the Judean desert where we hiked and ran yesterday. Wish I were training at altitude too! Am not running nearly as far as you and am very impressed by the dedication. Keep up the training and blogging too please. I hope you’re learning tons too! Catch you on the flipside back in Boston.

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