Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .


Leave a comment

Imagine, Ethiopia

Arba Minch - Sunrise 01

Sunrise on “Bridge to Heaven”, the mountaineous sliver connecting Rift Valley, Lakes Chamo &  Abaya

“As once the winged energy of delight
carried you over childhood’s dark abysses,
now beyond your own life build the great
arch of unimagined bridges.”                       Rainer Maria Rilke

The road to Ethiopia began on a treadmill at the YMCA exactly five years ago.  I had made a commitment to organize a fundraising gala for People to People Aid Organization. With a venue booked at the ROM I realized that I had better start envisioning how that event would look. So in the free-flowing creative state that can be invoked on an easy run, I began to write the event blurb, “Imagine spring with cherry trees in bloom, and an evening party in the elegant and sophisticated lounge setting of C5 at the ROM.”

Lalibela-Hike01

Hike to Asheton Maryam Monastery at 9800 feet. (Photo, John Chou)

My husband and I went on to 5 years of organizing and chairing the People4Kids Gala to raise funds for children orphaned by AIDS in Ethiopia – three years at the ROM and two years at the LUMA in the TIFF Bell Lightbox. From day one we began to meet many members of Toronto’s Ethiopian community who appreciated our efforts to help out. One constant message was to keep in mind that Ethiopia is a beautiful, vibrant country. It felt inevitable that we would one day visit – it was just a matter of “when”. Five galas later with much money raised, and close to full-retirement for us both, we finally made it to see both the country and the organization whose work the gala had supported.

Here are Five Things that Struck me about Ethiopia

  1. Ethiopia IS a beautiful country with vistas both stark and lush.
  2. Ethiopians are special people with a unique and remarkable history.
  3. Ethiopia is a one of the poorest countries in the world.
  4. Ethiopia is not an easy country to run in.
  5. Ethiopia is a very safe country.

BEAUTY

We travelled to 8 different cities and towns flying first to Arba Minch in the south and then the classic Northern tour of Bahir Dar, Lalibela, Axum and Gondar all by air. We returned to the south with a road trip to Hawassa and Lake Langano. Our two trips to the south included stopovers in Ziway, Chencha, Dorze village, Butijara and a quick visit to a coffee collective in Aleto Wondo. Did you know that 90% of Africa’s mountains are in Ethiopia? The Rift valley with its lakes with mountain surrounds, the rugged mountains of Lalibela reaching 10,000 meters and peeks from afar, of the Simien and Bale mountains, amply illustrate this fact.

Lalibela-Church01

Rock hewn churches of Lalibela, Unesco World Heritage Site (Photo, John Chou)

HISTORY

Ethiopia has nine UNESCO world heritage sites, which along with Morocco is the most of any country in Africa. Nine of those ten sites are cultural sites. Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that has never been colonized. For a short period it was occupied by the Italians but it is point of pride that it has never been a colony. It is for this reason that the African Union Headquarters is in Addis Ababa.

POVERTY & HEALTHCARE

It is one thing to know intellectually that Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world – 11th from the bottom in per capita GDP. Actually seeing how people living on $2 USD a day live is like the difference between looking at a picture of food and tasting it. Currently there is a severe drought in the Tigray and Afar regions which some say is worse than the drought of 1984 which killed more than 1 million Ethiopians.

On the positive side, life expectancy has risen from 52 to 62 over the past 10 years. Although with so little resources for medical care, a child in Ethiopia with cancer of any kind has little chance of survival.

North of Gondor-01

A little wind sprint, North of Gondor, Simien Mountains in sight (Photo, John Chou)

RUNNING 

While one of Ethiopia’s greatest exports is world-class distance runners including Haile Gebrsellasie, the greatest distance runner ever, it is not that easy for a visitor to run in Addis Ababa. Driving style, pollution and poor road/sidewalk infrastructure make running in Addis a huge challenge. Running in some of the smaller towns or cities can be a bit easier. The advantage of training at altitude, Addis is about 2600 meters, helps to produce world-class distance runners but for the everday athlete adaptation to altitude can be quite variable. Fortunately, for all my fears due to a bad experience in Sante Fe a few years back, I had no adverse effects but I was severely limited in my runs by the other constraints.

SAFETY

Not being a particularly adventurous sort, the fact that Ethiopia is one of the safest countries in Africa to travel was an attraction. While it may be a very poor country, there does not seem to be a culture of criminality alongside this. We always felt very safe. Far safer than we did in our visit last spring to Chicago. People were kind and helpful and you got the feeling that if you did run into trouble on the street, the locals would help you.

THE FUTURE

Sister Tibebe

We met the amazing Sister Tibebe of Hiwot Integrated Development Association (HIDA) a few years ago when she spoke in Toronto as a guest of CUSO. We were pleased to meet again in Ethiopia at a party for the children of the various programs run by HIDA.

So this trip was the culmination of an important part of our lives for the past five years. Most of the ferengi (foreigners) we met while there, were those involved in aid work. In fact, we bumped into friends from 22 years back with whom we lost touch with and discovered that they have lived in Addis for 18 years and very much a part of the community of NGO’s in Ethiopia. We met a Dutch man working with religious leaders in small communities so they can help influence their communities to abandon the widespread practice of female genital mutilation, a Japanese man involved with helping strengthen coffee cooperatives and a young economist with the World Food Programme who had decided that he had written enough papers on international development and it was time to some experience on the ground.

And most importantly there are the Ethiopians, the returning diaspora and the extensive world-wide diaspora working towards change in multi-faceted ways. Notably Haile Gebrsellasie, who I had the great honour to meet. He showed us around his Addis office and introduced us to the staff of the Great Ethiopian Run, Africa’s largest running race. But this I think is a topic for a separate blog post.

Haile Gebrsellasie-01

I greatly admire the committment to change all these individuals represent. While Ethiopia is a wonderful place to visit, for those used to the comforts of developed nations, living there for longer periods of time would be a challenge for most of us.

As the impact of this trip takes hold, I find myself thinking it is only a matter of time before our relationship with Ethiopia will be reimagined, knowing that imagination cannot contain the fullness of what the next five years might hold.

Arba Minch -02 John

Dining room at the Paradise Lodge, Arba Minch, Ethiopia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements


1 Comment

Run, Reflect, Rejoice

MLK

My son, his girlfriend and my husband at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. MLK

We just got back from Washington D.C. where I enjoyed four memorable runs. Shown above is one of many Martin Luther King Jr. quotes chiseled into the wall surrounding the memorial statue. I was reminded of other memorable words worth reflecting on this New Year’s eve.

085A poem by Rumi, dedicated to my husband.

A moment of happiness,
you and I sitting on the verandah,
apparently two, but one in soul, you and I.
We feel the flowing water of life here,
you and I, with the garden’s beauty
and the birds singing.
The stars will be watching us,
and we will show them
what it is to be a thin crescent moon.
You and I unselfed, will be together,
indifferent to idle speculation, you and I.
The parrots of heaven will be cracking sugar
as we laugh together, you and I.
In one form upon this earth,
and in another form in a timeless sweet land.

LynnWashingtonRun

Morning run, Friday, December 28, 2012

“When you race, you liberate your soul from the limits of your body. You push your body beyond its limit. In every race, you relive the innocence of childhood and the hope of youth, only to see them dashed in the pain of adulthood and the weakness of old age.”  Kamal Jabbour

Wishing you and your loved ones, a peaceful, joyful and healthy New Year!

Lynn


Leave a comment

Rainy run in Fergus

Rail path from Fergus to Elora, Ontario

Oh, and did I mention that I ran a marathon a couple of weeks back? I’m on the mend from the disappointment of my second-slowest marathon time since my first marathon back in 1981. At some point I hope to blog about it but I’m moving on and enjoying a lot of very short runs as part of my recovery. We just spent three days in Fergus in small-town Ontario and enjoyed a lot of R&R at a local B&B.

Fergus Brew Pub – Sante!

It was a rainy time and we decided to skip our planned three miler on Saturday. I was ready to skip running on Sunday but got out the door thanks to my husband. He had looked into the local trails and led us to the trail-head of a rail path which runs from Fergus to Elora. I carried out my plan to run a modest 20 minute tempo workout within a 5 miler. In spite of the light rain, I felt pretty good and was tempted to extend my tempo run. Erring on the side of post-marathon recovery, I stuck to the plan.

I took a full five days off running after the marathon BUT I am trying to salvage a modicum of fitness to run a masters cross-country meet on November 11th.  My strategy is to keep my runs very short and do some minimal tempo running. In addition to the five days off I ran three miles, twice, for a total of six miles my first post-marathon week. My longest run so far has been five miles.

I read this when I was a girl! Coffee at the Fergus General Store

I’ve been enjoying catching up with friends and getting out and about. Last week we attended the final 2012 Massey Lecture at Koerner Hall, given by Neil Turok. Last night I saw Otto Preminger’s  Bonjour Tristesse from 1958 at the Bell Lightbox and I’ve been getting a bit of reading in. Although my current read A Song for Nagasaki while inspiring if not life-changing, is heavy going. Tomorrow we are going to see Betty Lavette at the Wintergarden Theatre. We saw her earlier this year at the Portland Blues Festival.

Fergus was exactly what we were looking for. It is a simple one-main-street-town with limited choices of what to do. We really enjoyed the fall fair at a local church, picking up books, dishes and a parsons bench.  I was also the winning bidder on the nativity scene shown below 🙂 We also checked out a couple of flea markets, ate at an Indian restaurant, a creperie and a brew pub across the way from our B&B.

The only bidder, the winning bidder! Handknit Nativity Scene

Getting back to the marathon, there is a whole other very happy side of the story which is a about my “other team” but somehow it seems too long a tale to tell as I rush to complete my second post of the month. Two posts a month is my minimum and well, it IS the 31st.

While we were away we found out via Facebook that our son and his friend who lives with us were holding a Halloween party. We hoped the party goers did not get carried away like this pumpkin we spotted in Elora on Saturday. Happy Halloween!

Spotted in Elora


Leave a comment

Running up those stairs & more

Back from a three city jaunt to Kingston, Quebec City and Ottawa with good running in all three cities. After tackling the nearly 400 step Cap Blanc staircase going from sea level up to the Plains of Abraham, a bit of research revealed that there is a race called the Défi des escaliers de Québec or the Quebec City Staircase Challenge. This stair marathon involves running up and down nearly 30 staircases for a total of more of 3000 steps over 19K. Imagine that!

For regular runs, one can choose to run along the St. Lawrence for many miles on a gently rolling course or through the more challenging hilly terrain of the Plains of Abraham. My longest run in our five-day stay was nine miles along the river.

Rock the ramparts – The Citadel, Quebec City

Our hotel in Kingston overlooked Confederation Bay and the path in front of the place was part of  an 8K long (albeit a somewhat circuitous) network of various waterfront pathways with a view of many windmills. The highlight of my three Kingston runs was an eleven miler with tempo sections. It is the fourth consecutive August that we have been in Kingston at the end of August but the first time that I ventured so far out along this particular route, having previously run through the army base. The down-side of those runs were the many unleashed dogs on the residential properties.

View from Majors Hill Park path, Ottawa

The best runs of all were in Ottawa. I heard rumours that one of my favourite paths, behind the Parliament buildings had been closed down. I was thrilled to find out that it was open and ran this beautiful Ottawa river path, through Majors Hill park, over the Alexandra bridge to Hull, past the Museum of Civilization and then back to Lebreton Flats in Ottawa. We lived in Lebreton Flats for a couple of years during our five years living in Ottawa. Since then the War Museum has opened and with this have come many improvements to the path that runs by it along the Ottawa river. The weather was a wonderfully cool 6C when I started and around 15C by the time I finished my 12 miles with a tempo section. This route is one of my favourite urban routes in Canada.

View from hotel room with windmills and running path (right, middle)

A feature of my runs in all three cities was listening to the audio book, Your Brain at Work by David Rock. which explores the latest in neuroscience and busts many a myth about the capacity of our brain to multitask. Some of the research cited would support my sense that creative thoughts while running are easier to come by for the long-time distance runner, for whom running is a second-nature, auto-pilot activity. I also enjoyed not having to focus on finishing my run at a certain time which set the  the stage for dreamy, lost-in-my-thoughts and very relaxed running. Of course this reduced urgency is only possible if your traveling partner also happens to be your best cheerleader and favourite running companion.

Plains of Abraham with my cheerleader, my husband, my love

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
Henry David Thoreau


Leave a comment

Rave Run – Beach running in Manzanita, Oregon

Running on the edge

Manzanita, Oregon, two hours from Portland and a three-night stay with three morning runs. Manzanita, Manzanita, let me count the ways I love beach running. I am a daily runner so any place that has great running makes for a great start to my day as a tourist. We stayed at the the wonderful Inn at Manzanita  just a block from the beach. Two years ago we spent eight days in Tofino, British Columbia on Cox Bay which I thought quite heavenly with its cozy and quiet 3/4 mile beach. The beach at Manzanita is billed variously as being as little as four miles but up to eight miles long.

The north end of Manzanita Beach

South end of Manzanita beach, nearly 6 miles later

My experience was that it is close to six miles long. I guess it depends on the time and tide. By Tofino standards it is a very quiet beach, even on the morning of Independence Day. My goal was to run to the farthest point of the beach but I fell short by about 200 meters. I got a bit spooked (I hope my mom is not reading this) by being the only person on the beach for the final mile or so. Over the prior two miles, I saw three people. I ran a beautiful, dreamy 9 miles which helped me get to 40 miles for the week. Fantastic!  This beach gets a perfect 10 out of 10. The only not-so-perfect thing about the run was to be without my husband’s company. He now limits himself to three miles, three times a week due to his torn meniscus. It makes me sad to enjoy such a beautiful run without him but as he says, “You have to run for the two two of us now.”

Turnaround point of three miler with my husband


Leave a comment

Running up those hills, Seattle

Cal Anderson Park fountain

The week leading up to our getaway was busy with work deadlines, a visitor and preparations for some painting at our home. Thankfully, our son and our roommate Alain took care of moving the furniture from our guest room and bedroom in our absence. We’ve been away for just over a week and spent three days visiting with my husband’s 96 year old dad. His dad is under the watchful eye of his son the rehab med doctor and continues with a weight lifting routine of many decades.

From Edmonton we took the 100 minute flight to Seattle and stayed at the Sorrento Hotel where we were the lucky recipients of a fabulous room upgrade. At check-in, we were offered the chance to upgrade to a suite for a small increase, which we agreed to this but checked to make sure that our room had a bathtub. We’ve discovered in our travels that increasingly, hotels that have undergone renovations oftentimes have only spa-style showers.  And, indeed when we found that our suite only had a shower so we asked for another room. This error was corrected in grand style as we were given a room that was three times the size of the tub-less suite.

We are sorry to have inconvenienced you. Please accept our apologies.

The concierge told my husband that this corner suite was once occupied by Francis Ford Coppola. He also said that it was used as  a  set for “Sleepless in Seattle” to mimic a Manhattan apartment. Thus enjoying great hotel coffee with our laptops perched atop a large round, wood table, set in a very large bay window area, with a tiny bit of waterfront peeking through tall buildings has become a memorable urban holiday moment. The suite included a large bedroom, a large wooden bar, an office area and a living room area. The open style lobby-bar area was extremely inviting but we never did check it out, due to the excessive comfort of our room. The only down-side to this luxury was the worry that our tipping was not as generous as that of Coppola.

Volunteer Park, Seattle

When I asked about running routes at the front desk, the young man who checked us in admitted that the running in downtown Seattle is not great. My vision of a scenic waterfront running path did not materialize. He pointed us towards Volunteer Park as preferable to the waterfront. I’ve heard that the Seattle marathon is hilly, but the reality of hills only sunk in on our first short run of four miles. Not great for my husband’s knees but it did lead me to finally use the googlemaps pedometer elevation function for the first time ever.

Volunteer Park is home to the Asian Art Museum. It is not a large park with a running circumference of about one mile but it is lush and has well-maintained washrooms. The residential areas surrounding the park are very well treed, with beautiful gardens and colourfully staid facades that matched the Seattle of my imaginings. The hills in some of these residential areas seem frankly, improbable. In doing some research on Galer Street, which seemed one of the steepest hills I’d run, I found it listed on a blog which offered advice on training for hiking in Nepal I ran up this hill after exiting Washington Park, home to Seattle’s Japanese garden.

Run for the treats

Three of my Seattle runs ended at Sugar Bakery and Cafe just around the corner from the hotel. And the treats were sweet and a cut above the usual including; salted caramel croissants and blackberry oat scones and supremely moist carrot, walnut muffins. I ended one run in the fitness center to maintain the momentum of my weight training regime. My husband joined me for his workout and took two photos of my routine, one dignified and the other not so dignified and possibly hilarious.

Curls for biceps

In control

Showing the strain

Apart from the hills, a highlight of our Seattle story was very much about our stay at the Sorrento. The crowning moment of the energetic and superb service at this hotel came as I ran up to the main door at the end of one run and wondered what the doorman was doing as he quickly ducked behind a curtain by the lobby door. He emerged with bottled water which he handed off to a grateful me.

One item for the to-do list: Write a positive TripAdvisor review of the Sorrento Hotel.


Leave a comment

The long and short of running

Lynn Kobayashi, Lynn Deutscher Kobayashi, Jeremy Lin jersey

Asian athletic pride

I’ve only blogged once in May due to ongoing busyness and a backlog of chores. A major highlight was Mother’s Day brunch at the InterContinental Yorkville where I received a Jeremy Lin jersey and consumed a dozen oysters among other things. Another high point was taking my parents to Auberge du Pommier for lunch as a late Mother’s Day and early Father’s day outing.

Happy Mother’s and Father’s Day

So I have been running long, or at least long enough for 5K training. After racing indoor track in February and March and then 5K and 10K in March and April, I felt I had reached a bit of a plateau so I took three easy weeks which coincided with my busy period. After that  I hit the track and was pleased that our track repeats were on the short side. The past three Saturdays I’ve done three decent longer runs at a faster-than-usual pace. I’ve been having trouble sleeping in the past year or so, so I’m not as eager to head out super-early on Saturdays despite the great feeling of finishing 10-18 miles by mid-morning. The body will not properly absorb training without a good supply of deep sleep.

I ran with a teammate a few weeks ago, who normally would be too fast for me but as he was recovering from the Boston marathon, sharing a run was doable. He told me that he remembered my name as the woman in the 50-54 category who was faster than him in one of his first half-marathons when he took up distance running six or seven years ago. He told me that as a young runner his benchmark had  been that he was always able to finish ahead of girls his age. So he was startled to discover that a woman ten years his senior beat him in the half-marathon.  He was also startled when I told him that his easy, recovery pace was putting me into the threshold heart rate zone as we ran.  Ah, I was so much faster then, I’m older than that now.

Another Saturday I ran with a teammate who is very new to running and has run excellent times for his category of 60-64. At our pub night a few weeks ago, I was astonished to discover that the farthest he had ever run in training was 12K. Following our conversation he ran 17K on his own and then ran 16K with me the week after.

Last Saturday a friend, who now lives in Regina dropped in to join the usual Saturday run crowd. What a treat to catch up on the run. The last time I saw him was last year when he lived in Ottawa. We had breakfast at the Chateau Laurier which is perhaps more of a treat than a hard 13. 5 miles run. I was having a hard time sleeping and woke that morning at 4:30 a.m. I left for the run at 7:00 a.m. It felt fairly hard and I was bagged when I got home, taking a cat nap shortly after. In the afternoon I napped from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. My recipe for a sound sleep – wake early, run hard, nap . . . hmm.  There must be a better drug-free way to deep sleep.

One reason why the run felt hard was that on Thursday I had a great track work out of 8 x 300 meters. I ran the final 300 in 56 seconds! Not bad for an aging racehorse. I’m gearing up to run a couple of 5K’s in June.  I think I’ve got the speed honed and will concentrate on speed-endurance for the next couple of weeks. I’ve started back to my weight lifting routine and as is always the case upon returning to this routine of a few decades, it feels great to flex those muscles. My goal for this training cycle is to go under 21 minutes. Weather will be a factor as I do not run well in the heat so cross your fingers for cool June mornings.

Due to lack of photos of the above, I leave you with photos of what fuels all this activity 🙂

Sea bass and best Brussels sprouts ever! 

Eggs Benny and oysters for Mother’s Day

Our twenty-something roommate cooks for us

Classic dessert mille-feuille, deconstructed à la Oliver & Bonacini