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Out in Front

 

While I will admit that waking at 5:40 AM never became easy, when you wake up knowing that you simply have an hour of easy jogging, it’s not so bad.  First, before you protest let me explain how an hour run could be considered easy.

I began training as a distance runner as a 6th grader going out for track.  Since that time I had run a competitive season at least once a year (of cross country and sometimes track) on into college.  In the summer after my sophomore year at Macalester College I went to Kenya to train with and learn about the successful running culture of some of the worlds fastest runners.  Before this morning, about 5 weeks into my 9 week trip, I had just completed possibly the hardest four days of training I had ever experienced, running between 1:45 and 3 hours a day while completing hard workouts that had me sprinting much of the time.  So while this morning 5:40 felt as early as ever, the thought of an hour of light running felt like a much deserved break after the previous 4 days.

Ngong Hills near Nairobi, Kenya, Africa

 

I dressed and went outside the compounds gates where it was still dark.  In the early morning darkness it was always hard to tell which runners were who.  Was the person next to me someone I knew well or someone I had never spoken with?  Children bustled down the rocky dirt road on their way to school, and men and women either walked or drove to work.

As more runners began to gather and the time got closer to the magical hour of 6 am when the daily runs would begin, I looked for Elisha, my training partner, to see if we would run with the group or run on our own.  Finally, after spotting another young runner who lived in the same room as Elisha, I asked if he knew if Elisha was coming.  He assured me, yes he was running a bit late, but was coming.  The group started off as usual running very slowly down the rocky road to the tarmac.  I decided to follow suit but kept looking back for Elisha- not knowing if the group was going easy or hard today, and therefore if we would join them or not.  The pace was easy enough, not that that meant much for the first minutes of a run in Kenya.  You see, in Kenya, every run starts off extremely slowly.  Runners- many of them whom are world class athletes that have raced in the Olympics or have won some of the worlds most competitive marathons- would start every run jogging at 12 minutes per mile.  I was quite shocked when I first arrived to see runners who could average 5 minutes per mile for 26 miles running at a slower pace than most novice runners in the US would run.

But while the pace started slowly, it could quickly heat up to the point where I would be left after 20 minutes gasping for what little air was left at 6000 feet.  When Elisha arrived he briefly spoke to another runner in Kalinjin- their first language- and one which I did not understand.  I asked Elisha if we should stay with the group and he said yes.  Elisha knew that this was to be our easy day and so I trusted that he had just learned the run would be short and easy as I relaxed and tried not to trip in the dark.

The route though was scarily familiar- it was Monday’s run and on Monday the pace quickly went from laughably slow to impossibly fast.  As we turned off the main road onto another I felt the pace beginning to quicken slightly- nothing to write home about- but it had me wondering if this really was going to be an easy run.

As the sun begins to come up and the day moves sharply from dark to light I feel the pace accelerate again- ah it’s going to be like a Monday run I realize.  I start to drop off the back a bit, but Elisha motions for me to keep up.  He puts his arm down by his side gesturing for me to keep up.  The motion is out of encouragement; I can tell that he really wants me to try to stay with the group so I get back up there.

After maybe 30 minutes we make a sharp turn onto a narrow road that immediately begins to go up hill.  The effort increases on the hill and I really feel the hill repeats I did the day before.  But, at the same time that I’m feeling tired I get a bit of boost when I see other runners turn off or “stop to use the bush.” I recall what Robert- my other training partner told me- “You are strong, why do you think the other runners stop?  They don’t necessarily have to go to the bathroom but maybe the pace is too fast for them.”

I get dropped by the pack on the steep uphills- my legs are just too tired from the day before- but Elisha continues to motion for me to catch up and I realize that on the flat sections and down hill portions of the road I am able to accelerate and catch the group again.  At the beginning of the run I was frustrated, “this was supposed to be our easy day” I thought to myself, but as the run continues I realize that I have been running with the group while they are running hard longer than I ever have.

At this point I am working really hard to keep up, and look at my watch and see that we have already run out in a single direction for almost 50 minutes.  I see a familiar cut off point and ask Elisha if we can take it.  He responds “I think it’ll be better if we just catch up with the group again,” ahh OK I think, we hit a down hill and I am able to catch up again with the back of the group.  Then Elisha turns and says to me “Now go to the front!”  My brain immediately thinks “WHAT?!?, doesn’t he know that as soon as the runners see the new/foreign runner go to the front they will take off?”  After all describing these types of runs as competitive is an understatement.  But to Elisha, I just laugh and say “OK, but this is my last push” and he replies that we can jog after we reach the forest.

So I make my move, I know that no one is going to easily let me pass on the narrow road so I have to run on the side at times to pass the runners.  And while I can tell they notice and are definitely surprised that I am still with the group at this point, they let me pass.  I almost get up even with the leader passing Wilsion Boit Kipketer- former world record holder in the steeple chase who acted as my mentor on the trip.  We round a sharp turn and I get cut off on the inside forcing me back a few feet.  I kick it up another gear to get back up with the leader when- wow- I take in the view of the open road in front of me.  Rather than seeing the backs of other runners- for the first time while running hard with the group I am able to see the road ahead- I am leading the pack.  Then I realize- I’m not even going 100%, I’m not even sprinting! And I am leading some of the best runners in the world.  I almost became choked up: never did I imagine that this would happen when I dreamed of spending a summer running with world class athletes.  Other words from Robert went through my head: “remember, they are working hard too.”  I naturally pick up the pace as I see the forest coming closer and closer ahead, but I feel great and keep pushing the pace on into the forest.

-Martin

The open road ahead

The open road ahead

This article was first published on EntertainingYourself.com on June 8, 2010.  Following his summer in Kenya, Martin Mudry returned to this beautiful country to film a documentary about these amazing runners.  The movie is called “Where Dreams Don’t Fade” and after touring the world at numerous film festivals, it is now available on DVD.

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Filmmakers’ Dreams Come True

Filmmakers Martin Mudry and Alex Nichols’ Dream of Festival Screening  was realized this month.  On the heels of the documentary’s World Premier at the LUMS International Film Festival in Lahore, Pakistan held February 10 – 12, the filmmakers received more big news this week: Where Dreams Don’t Fade will be screening at the 36th Cleveland International Film Festival in March.

Martin Mudry in Hollywood

This is big news for EntertainingYourself.com because Martin is also one of our beloved contributors!

We would like to extend our Congratulations to both of these filmmakers, along with its stars, Robert Kigen, Alexander Mneria and Virginia Rono, on this major milestone!

Read on to see the announcement  in the Cleveland International Film Festival Program:

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Where Dreams Don’t Fade

Director:
Martin Mudry
Alex Nichols
Run Time: 76 minutes

Country: USA, KENYA

Year: 2012

Since 1968 Kenya has won 21 Olympic gold medals in long distance running compared to the U.S.’s three medals. While the rest of the world knows the African region gives birth to some of the best long distance runners on the planet, the true story of how each person gets to the big stage remains hidden. WHERE DREAMS DON’T FADE is an intimate portrait into the trials and tribulations of the men and women who dream of a better life through running. Following three runners, this documentary provides insight into a part of the world where everyone shares the same dream, but the only escape is through hard work, determination, and a little bit of luck. Virginia is relatively new to running and she trains as she searches for a job; Alex was recruited into the army that trained him; and Robert is battling back from injuries hoping to hang on to the last chance he may have. The amount of perseverance, dedication, and discipline is inspiring and one can’t help but root for these runners as they chase their dreams in a place where dreams are all they have. (In English, Swahili, and Kalenjin with subtitles) –T.W.

 

tickets and showtimes

Tuesday, March 27 separator 8:45 PM
Wednesday, March 28 separator 5:45 PM
Thursday, March 29 separator 12:05 PM
Sidebars Standing Up CompetitionPan-African ImagesLocal Heroes
Producer Alex Nichols, Martin Mudry
Screenplay Alex Nichols, Martin Mudry
Cinematography Alex Nichols, Martin Mudry
Editing Alex Nichols, Martin Mudry
Principal Cast Alexander Mneria, Robert Kigen, Virginia Rono
Director Bio Alex Nichols is a Minnesota native who studied English and film studies before graduating from Colorado College in Colorado Springs in 2007. While there he ran varsity cross country and track, wherein he met fellow filmmaker and runner Martin Mudry.A native of Cleveland Heights, Martin Mudry studied at University School in Shaker Heights and Colorado College in Colorado Springs before finishing his tenure at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he studied filmmaking and graduated with a degree in Psychology.
Select Filmography WHERE DREAMS DON’T FADE (2012)
Print Source Where Dreams Don’t Fade
Martin Mudry
m.j.mudry@gmail.com
www.facebook.com/wheredreamsdontfade
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Martin Examines Hops

Foraging For Hops

Sadly, I’m not a big beer drinker.  And I say sadly, because I seem to be surrounded by people who really know and love their beer.  My sister’s fiancé, Joel, is a brewer at the one and only Great Lakes Brewing Company, and my good friend, co-filmmaker, and current roommate, Alex, is experienced in the art of home brewing- he even took an online course.  So between them it is as if I’ve been adopted into beer culture.

For the most part this has worked out well enough. They’ve been able to get past my comments such as “I think my favorite beer is Coors Ice- Coors Light poured over a big glass of ice,” and I’ve been able to ignore their Indiana Jones like reactions in beer shops to a rare “one of a kind” find.  But this weekend a connection was made – I have now become a beer “forager.”

It all started a few years ago- Alex had discovered wild hops growing near Colorado Springs.  He had seen it for a few years and after many smell tests found when it would be most ripe for harvest.  It just happened to coincide with this past Saturday, so Alex, Maddy (Alex’s girlfriend), Dan (another beer advocate) and I hopped into the car.

We arrived at a familiar running spot, and started hiking up the road keeping our eyes peeled for what I perceived to be these “illusive” hops.  On the way, I found my eyes (and mind) wandering away from the task at hand, to the crags and rock walls along the path, wondering which I could climb.  I pointed an especially nasty looking one out to Dan, (an experienced climber) wondering if I’d be able to attempt the route while being securely roped up.  Reading my mind he declared: “That’s about the limit of what I’d do without a rope!”  Instantly I was in disbelief and awe for it was 100 feet of near vertical and overhanging rock. We continued on, me pondering Dan’s skill level and the rest of the group searching for the still undiscovered hops.

The trip was not without treasures. We did stumble upon a rare squirrel that looked like a cross between a bunny and the devil.  We photographed the demon and moved on.

Throughout the search, I was completely ignorant to what hops looked like and imagined us gathering long stalks of brown wispy wheat-like plants.   Our prospects weren’t looking too good until finally Alex spotted the “elusive” hop.

I could not have been more surprised.  Rather than brown, tall and thin, it grows as a vine and has little buds ranging from ½ to 1 inch long.  We smelled them and were mildly impressed but moved on to see if there were more.

BOOM- we found the bumper crop.  A small pine tree was covered in them.

This bunch smelled different and we all went back and forth, on which we liked more.  In the end we gathered half a plastic bag full of both varieties and headed to the home brew store.

 

 

And despite the excitement of our find, I was still pondering Dan’s declaration about the rock climb, so before we reached the car I convinced Dan to try and “free solo” (climb unroped) his peak, except that I was horrified when he actually took up my challenge and started up.  I thought my stupid dare was about to lead to the witness of my friend falling onto the sharp rocks below.  Luckily, fear or reality got the better of him and he decided ascending in sandals sans rope was not the best plan.

The adventure continued as we drove way out east of the mountains to the plains.  The homebrew store was a combination of a warehouse and bar.  Across the street was a strip club.  We entered the store and Alex and Dan rummaged around, selecting their special ingredients (malted barley extract, yeast) and tools (tubing, buckets). Alex and Dan already had much of the gear but after two batches of last year’s brew had resulted in explosions, Alex wanted new tubing to prevent another round of infection, which he speculated might have been caused by wild yeast entering the beer.

The owner rung us up and delighted in informing us that tax was only 4.7% – we were out of the city now where tax was 9.8%!

“Gotta love being right on the border” he joked.  “But the winter was a drag, snow plow didn’t even plow the street.”

“But you gotta love that tax,” I told him, “hell, I bet you’ll put the plow on your truck and make your own path.”

He gave a hearty laugh, it appeared I hit the nail on the head.  (I wondered if he had a deal with the strip club guy).

Fast-forward to the next day and our cottage was transformed into what could easily be mistaken for a meth lab.  Tubes, and buckets everywhere with a big vat of wort (beer before it has fermented) on the stove.

 

The smell was… interesting, but it grew on me and over all the hops smelled great.

Alex and Maddy did most of the actual brewing, while I hung around on the sidelines, watching in wonder.  Now, after all the excitement and activity, for once I can honestly say that I’ve never been so excited to crack open a beer.  I’ll let you know how it goes in 4 weeks!

~Martin~