Running On Om

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ROO #87: Rene Kalmer on Loving Running Throughout One’s Lifetime


Rene Kalmer is a professional runner and Olympian from South Africa.

In the episode, Rene tells the story of how she got into running, from her first cross country race at the age of 10 to her breakthrough running year at the age of 16. She reveals the secret to her longterm success as a deep love of running. Rene recounts her dreams of becoming an Olympian, watching fellow South African female runners Elana Meyer and Zola Budd from a young age. She explains how she transitioned from running the 1500 meter at the 2008 Beijing Olympics to running the marathon at the 2012 Olympics. Rene shares details of her marathon training, including key workouts and her relationship with Christine, her sister and training partner. She provides insight on the importance of listening to your body and how she practices this on a daily basis. Rene discusses why she left teaching to pursue running full-time. She recaps her recent experience at the Berlin Marathon where she placed 9th in a time of 2:29:27. Rene describes how she overcomes the mental challenges that are experienced during a marathon. She reflects on her three-week stay in Ethiopia, including her most memorable run and her perspective on why Ethiopian runners are among the best in the world. Rene notes the support of her family as paramount to her success. Lastly, Rene previews her journey in qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

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ROO Video: The Journey to Entoto

The Yaya Girls journeyed to Entoto for a challenging workout. They live at 8,858 feet in Sululta, Ethiopia, however wanted the higher altitude of over 10,000 feet for their kilometer reps. Their workout consisted of 4k, 3k, 2k with 2 minutes rest in between on a hilly field loop. In order to get to Entoto, the Yaya Girls traveled around 90 minutes by minibus and foot. They did not cool down after their workout since they had an over 90 minute walk back through the forest.

The Yaya Girls not only train hard on a daily basis, but also study English, gender empowerment, and receive vocational training. The Yaya Girls co-program coordinator, Julia Hanlon, creator of Running On Om, had the privilege of filming their Entoto journey and hopes to share more videos of their amazing work on and off the trails. To learn more about the Yaya Girls, visit

Music by Tom Misch, “The Journey”

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Yaya Journal 4: Be Strong

Ayzos was my mantra on this dirt track session!

Ayzos was my mantra during this dirt track session!

During my first week in Ethiopia, fellow runners would call out “ayzos” to me on the trails. I was confused since it sounded like “Achoo!” I soon learned that ayzos is an Amharic expression that means “be strong.”

This past weekend I took a four hour intensive Amharic class that covered basic words and phrases. Ayzos was included and even made it to the top ten most frequently used Amharic words on the teacher’s handout. Dil, the teacher, explained that ayzos was not only an expression of fortitude, as in the case of “keep running!,” but also a way to convey sympathy if someone experiences adversity.

After one month, I still speak tinish tinish (a little) Amharic and it has been both a joy and challenge to begin learning a new language with its own culturally specific words and phrases. The six Yaya girls I am working with giggle at my American pronunciation of Amharic words and fellow runners in the forest show surprise and smile when I answer ayzos right back.

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Running On Om’s Manifesto


Over the past year, I have had the privilege of getting to know ROO Podcast Interviewees, Greg Faxon of Living Deliberately and Izzy Darby of Veganizzm, who are both passionate, entrepreneurial, young adult bloggers. We have challenged each other, collaborated, and acted as sounding boards for one another in our journeys to develop the mission that grounds our work.

A few months ago, Greg proposed that we all write “manifestos” to clarify the purpose of our blogs. It was an incredible exercise in reflecting on what I live by and want those in the Running On Om Community to embody through my podcast, posts, and photographs.

If you want to seek clarity on the purpose of your actions, whether it be on your perspective on social conduct, work, or general life wisdom, try writing a manifesto. There is no wrong way to do it. Take a look at Greg’s manifesto— it is vastly different from mine, and encompasses his vision and unique perspective.

Although I wrote the words to my manifesto, the statement really came to life when Singha Hon, my good friend and talented artist, illustrated it. Singha also created the Running On Om header logo and as my former college roommate, really gets what Running On Om is all about. Please check out her work on— she is a remarkable source of artistic inspiration.

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ROO #86: Joseph Kibur on Running as a Business and Life Path

Joseph ROOJoseph Kibur is a runner, founder of the Yaya Village and cofounder of the Yaya Girls Running Program.

Joseph was born in Ethiopia and moved to Canada at the age of 11. He had tremendous success in the Canadian running scene, where he at the age of 16 set the then North American 1500 meter high school record and in 1993 was the Canadian Cross Country National Champion. After his time running at Simon Fraser University, he launched NetNation Communications, Inc., a Vancouver-based web hosting company. He has since returned to Ethiopia with his family and continued to develop various businesses and charities in his home country, including the Yaya Village Hotel which is a premier high altitude training center and home to the Yaya Girls Program.

In the episode, Joseph tells the story of how he got into running, from his first race to how running kept him out of trouble in his youth. He recounts how his 1993 Canadian Cross Country National Championship win was unexpected. Joseph discusses the logistics of running competitively at Simon Fraser University with only three days a week of running training due to his injury-prone history. He reflects on how the lessons he learned from running helped him establish his successful NetNation Communications Company. Joseph describes his return to Ethiopia and his journey starting the Yaya Village. He explains why he choose to focus on helping female runners with the Yaya Girls Program instead of male runners. Joseph offers his unique insider-outsider perspective on why Ethiopian runners are among the best in the world. He provides insight on the power of letting go in finding one’s work-life balance. Joseph honors two of his mentors, including his Coach George Gluppe and fellow Ethiopian runner Haile Gebrselassie. Lastly, he reveals races on his bucket list and upcoming projects.

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Yaya Journal 3: If You Can’t Run, Walk.

WalkDuring the past month of being at the Yaya Village, I have been sick twice with bad stomach ailments. These illnesses have been humbling experiences and have left my body in a fragile state.

Although I believe that being a runner means pushing one’s boundaries, being sick has taught me the importance of respecting my limits. I have been forced to listen to my body by resting and not running.

At the Yaya Hotel, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Julia Bleasdale, an accomplished professional runner and Olympian from the UK. During my return back to health, she offered me a great idea— that instead of running, I go on a walk! Embarrassingly, I had not thought of this. In my tunnel-vision mind, it is run or nothing.

My first walk after my first stomach illness was a novel experience. I walked the route of one of my favorite forest runs and had the joy of noticing new trees, paths, and flowers. At 8,858 feet altitude, walking up hill also elevated my heart rate and I finished my walk feeling the endorphin-buzz I get after a solid run.

For those all-or-nothing runners like myself, if you are coming back from injury, illness, or want to re-discover a running route, try going out for a long walk— it is truly a breath of fresh air.

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Yaya Journal 2: Surface Strength


The Yaya Girls got surface strength!

I am not ready to write an in-depth blog post on why Ethiopia is filled with some of the best runners in the world. I have only been here for two weeks and just begun to skim the surface of this phenomenon.

Here in Sululta, in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, the majority of the surfaces people run on are made of dirt, pebble, and wooded trails. The foot and lower leg intelligence that is required to navigate the uneven terrains of the majority of runs requires strength—and that underlying strength to run efficiently on this rocky ground is developed over days, months, and years.

So far, surface strength seems to be threefold:

1.Ethiopian runners have unique “micro-muscles” in their feet and lower legs that develop from the challenging surfaces they run on.

2.I would argue that Ethiopian runners get injured less since they run the majority of the time on off-pavement surfaces, and in turn can run higher mileage.

3.When running on the smooth surface of a track or road, Ethiopian runners’ surface strength contributes to a faster, effortless gait.

There are many more observations to be unearthed on why Ethiopian runners are among the best. Right now, after only two weeks in Ethiopia, I am just beginning to skim the surface strength.


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