An Interview with Julia Bleasdale
September 18, 2015
With less than a year until the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, athletes across the world are 'upping the ante' with their training, and putting everything they have into winning. Ethiopia is of course no exception. Not only are our own elite runners covering 150+ kilometres a week, but they’re being joined by long distance runners from across the world, all looking to make the most of the high altitude and optimum training conditions this country offers.
Julia Bleasdale, a long distance British runner, is one such athlete making Ethiopia her base over the coming months, and Limalimo Lodge are delighted to be hosting her whilst training in the Simien Mountains.
Ahead of her arrival, we’ve taken the opportunity to ask her a few questions about Ethiopia, the impending Olympics and what she expects from a running camp she's co-hosting with us in November.
You first visited Ethiopia in 2006 and have since made it one of your core training grounds. What were your initial impressions and how does it compare to training elsewhere?
Travelling to Ethiopia for the first time, my senses were on fire! New sights, sounds, smells and with adventures at every turn, it was so different to anything I had experienced - I was captivated. What struck me most was Ethiopia’s incredible and diverse landscape as well as the warmth and generosity of its people; these elements have kept me returning year after year!
Do you find that the Ethiopian training style differs from elsewhere?
Ethiopian athletes have their own unique style. Rarely running side by side they form a snake-like formation, weaving in and out of eucalyptus trees, skirting cropped fields, darting up undulating trails and along dirt road tracks. Training involves a large quantity of ‘fartlek’ sessions and the ethos appears to be one of ‘go out hard and see how long you can survive’!
Known affectionately as 'the land of running', Ethiopia is one of the best destinations for altitude training - running tourism is still in its infancy however. What steps do you think it needs to take to be able to compete as the destination for global elite runners?
With Ethiopia currently being off the beaten track it is a slightly more adventurous setting to ‘navigate’ than other locations. Although this adds to the allure for me, the general standard of accommodation is not always as high and communication can be tricky. Developments such as Limalimo Lodge will really change this; a first class facility catering for every need whilst supporting conservation and sustainability in the very environment runners wish to experience and enjoy.
You're planning a couple of running weekends with Limalimo Lodge in the autumn and New Year - what inspired this, and what have you got in store for the participants?
Surrounding the Lodge is the most breathtaking landscape that offers a wealth of possibilities for trail running at altitude; I look forward to introducing participants to this exciting area whilst sharing new experiences as well as my running knowledge.
Through its development, Limalimo Lodge is playing an important role in conservation and sustainable tourism within the Simiens. What are you most looking forward to about training in such a spectacular national park?
The Simien Mountains provide untapped potential in terms of running exploration and endeavor. Limalimo Lodge is paving the way to making the Park more accessible whilst preserving the special and protected landscape with its unique wildlife and friendly people. I really look forward to engaging with local communities, understanding more about their lives and how we can ensure that tourism maintains a harmonious relationship within the area.
I can imagine you don't get much 'down time' when you're in Ethiopia - if you had a two week break to tour the country, what would you want to see and do?
It is often said that you can spend a lifetime really getting to know a National Park, collection of peaks or even a valley. I feel most at home within mountain landscapes, so would happily spend the break exploring the endless diversity of the Simien Mountains. If I were to travel further afield it would probably be to the Bale Mountains in the south.
Last month marked the one year countdown to Rio 2016. How do you think Rio will compare to your home Olympics in London, 2012?
I am not sure whether any Olympic Games will quite compare to running in a home stadium with close to 80,000 spectators cheering for you! However, Rio promises to deliver a colourful sporting carnival, full of character and charm. With just one year to go I am excited at the prospect and journey ahead.
Finally, if you could train with anyone, anywhere, who and where would it be?
There is not one place or one person; I relish the diverse nature of my training locations as well as the athletes I meet en route. Elite athletes and recreational runners alike, I enjoy the company of others who share a passion and an enthusiasm for outdoor exploration whilst pushing ones body.
Our thanks to Julia for taking time out of her busy schedule to be part of this interview; we’re looking forward to welcoming Julia, and all running camp participants to the Lodge in just a few weeks!
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