I felt terrible on Wednesday last week. I had another type of bacterial infection in my GI. For me these happen every few months and, according to our PC doctor, affect 70% of volunteers worldwide, although I would have guessed it closer to 100%. In this publicly available blog, I’ll spare you the details, but for those of you who know me better, I’m sure I’ll get a chance to tell you all about my darkest, grossest, and humiliating shitting experiences later when I can tell you in person. I don’t know, but shit stories seem like something to share over beers, not post on this blog. What you need to know is that I spent a few days holed up in my house, eating bananas and biscuits, and never straying far from the shint bet (toilet). I even got seriously dehydrated, a first for me; I mean I’ve read about dehydration from diarrhea, but never experienced it before. So that sucked. To fight a bacterial infection you can try to wait it out or take an antibiotic. I tried to wait, unsuccessfully for 3 days and then took the first dose of cippro. Within hours the medicine was killing things inside of me and my stomach sounded like a sloppy battlefield where microbes were dying by the millions.
I woke up the next day, feeling slightly better, and good enough to brave a bus trip to Mekele and then to Sinkata (a total of about 5 hours). You see, I had a half marathon to run the next day.
I have been running a lot in the mornings to prepare for the annual Hawassa Half Marathon. I ran it last year and it was a lot of fun to get together with other volunteers from around Ethiopia to run in the beautiful lakeside town of Hawassa. However, this year our participation in the event was prohibited, at the last minute, by our office because of unsafe travel conditions. There were student protests in the Oromia region and the political stability and general safety were questionable. Therefore our office made the call to put us on “standfast,” not allowing travel into the Oromia region.
But a bunch of us volunteers were planning on running in the Hawassa Half Marathon. Some had put months of training into this and we weren’t going to take no for an answer. Tigray Trek veterans, Hannah, Shay, Mike, and I decided to run a half marathon of our own. We would run from Shay’s town, Sinkata, to Hawzien, a distance of about 21 KM.
But I was sick. On Saturday night I felt ok and ate some injera. That provoked another battle of my insides. Luckily my body won the fight, but we sacrificed sleep, comfort, and fluids in the process. I stayed up late clutching my guts and wondered about my ability to run a half marathon the next day while the others slept. Eventually I slept too and we all awoke at 5am to begin the run to Hawzien.
The run was beautiful and hot as we picked our way over familiar ground towards Hawzien. We arrived successfully 2 and half hours later, ate breakfast and then bused back to Sinkata. I made it. No embarrassing episodes along the way and I felt pretty good after finishing.
One common convention for distance running is called the taper. The idea is to taper off your running and training before a big race or event so that your body is well rested, fueled, and ready to take on the challenge. You are supposed to stop running a few days before the big race and just take it easy. I, in effect, took on the most extreme taper imaginable. I cut out food, water, running, walking, standing and other ‘normal’ human functions for the 4 or 5 days preceeding this half marathon and I still made it. So my advice to all you go-getter distance runners who have a hard time staying stationary just before your big race: get a bacteria infection and lay in bed for 4 days. It worked for me!