Today is the 17th of February, which means that I have to run/walk seventeen miles. Yesterday it was 16 and tomorrow it will be 18 (gulp). This craziness is the Run Until You Drop Challenge which cropped up on facebook and which I am in the throes of. You have to run the number of miles of each day in the month.
This morning, though, I had one of those little experiences that make everything worth while.
I had decided to split the day into two: 14 miles off the bat and then save 3 miles for walking to the shops etc later. My calves are tight as they have put in a lot of mileage since the beginning of the month, and my ankles are wobbling a bit. Nevertheless, I did the first seven miles as a nicely paced run and then the plan was to walk back.
I left just after sunrise and headed up north towards the Palm Gardens which lie on the outskirts of Marrakech. It was chilly and a little bit misty but the roads were quiet and I was joined for part of the way by another runner whose name was Shams Al Nahhar – the sun of the daytime – which is rather poetic. We discussed the atrocities being carried out by ISIS, the state of the roads, and the fact that there are fewer young Moroccan runners coming through to international level at the moment. Staple fare to while away a few miles.
He peeled off and I finished my seven and turned round to walk back. I was striding out past a group of camels, waiting to give holiday makers rides through the gardens, when I heard a shout. Their minder was waving a pot of tea at me and gesticulating. At first I sign-languaged no – which you do here by holding your right hand to your heart and raising your head. Then I realised, I was cold and low on energy and I really fancied a cup of tea.
So, down I went to meet Abd El Hamid. He was a young man, around 20 and the camels weren’t his, he told me, but he worked with them. Tourists were still thin on the ground but at least the weather was getting warmer. I agreed and he asked what I was training for and we chatted a little about sport and fitness. He dusted off a camel blanket and put it on a seat-shaped rock for me, then poured out a glass of hot, very sweet, very black tea. He raised the teapot as high as he could and lowered it to the glass, which is meant to connect the sky to the earth, and which also gives the tea a nice froth.
We clinked glasses and drank, and shared a few minutes of winter sun.