The clay floor is swept clean, the only available light comes from the sunbeams shining through the front doorway, made visible by the lightly dusted air. Gently illuminated is the front room of a traditional Ethiopian home with a collection of stools and seats gathered neatly around a central fire area. A chicken flutters to the threshold, throwing a long evening shadow across the smooth floor, and carefully reviews the recently arrived visitors, hoping for some crumbs, only to be ushered away, as if she has forgotten house rules on such days.

As guests, we sit on the best low chairs, each slung with animal hides. The family elders of a friend have joined us in the warm glow of sunlight while the rest of the small household are engaged in the final preparations of the shared evening meal. Proceedings start when we are each presented, as guests to the village and of the house, with a small plate bearing a large heaped portion of pure crystalline honey. We feel privileged – our gift of hospitality amounts to two small jars worth! – but immediately two questions pop silently into our heads. Firstly, is this really all honey? And secondly, is this all for us to eat right now?

In time we discover that the answer to both these queries is “yes”, delivered with some surprise, as if we have been a little silly to even ask. The ensuing conversation quickly provides the opportunity for far more interesting discussions, and our evening starts to flow.

We are here in Ethiopia again to facilitate my regular stint of winter altitude training, high up in the mountains, at about 3000m. We have also decided to explore an area that is new to us, and take the opportunity to visit a small building project that aims to bring further much-needed development to an outlying area of the Simien mountains.

The build is in its final stages. When completed, the facility will comfortably accommodate foreign visitors for hiking trips and wildlife excursions in the truly remarkable landscape of the national park (with a Unesco world heritage site designation), which has recently been enlarged and is now better protected.

Our new family acquaintance currently installs the plumbing and electrics at the construction site, about 3km up the road from the farmstead, while maintaining his industrious bees and the family patchwork of fields. The busy hives and a ripening crop of barley are situated on a small plateau overlooking the tiered hillsides that lead down from the main escarpment of the Ethiopian highlands, and form part of a collection of homes and lands that are known as Limalimo.

For now, we have become part of the routine in the village and surrounding area, able to witness the daily rhythms that are beginning to bring the project to fruition. As I observe the building process, the locals watch train, running mile after mile across the beautiful landscape. A mutual respect develops for each of our separate endeavours as the days pass. A balance of purpose and pleasure enables me to thrive and overcome the demands of running up to 100 miles a week at 3000m.

The virtues of warmth, high altitude and soft trails are well known to the endurance side of the athletic world, but for me, a training location requires more to become the ideal location: natural landscape, tranquility, fresh air and a welcoming community where positive friendships are easily formed. In Ethiopia, especially in these rural areas, the people in the community welcome you, even as they go about their busy work – in this case, creating a wonderful collection of lodges, bringing much-needed employment to a region largely dependent on subsistence agriculture.

We are told that November is the month of the best honey harvest, and our more than generous portion of high-altitude wild honey, as an aperitif to the main family meal, is not only an expression of the hospitality of the Ethiopian people but an indication of the thriving local market of seasonal produce. The new lodge, with its demands for staff and produce, will bring an injection of cash into the local economy, offering increased stability, better opportunities and greater access to education for more children.

Exploring the diversity of this new location has helped me build friendships, enhanced my chosen endeavour and taught me that the richest and most enduring experiences in running are not necessarily found in a race or a stadium.

As for the plate laden with honey – we managed to eat more than a suitably polite amount with our fingers. It was absolutely delicious, but as our insulin raced to suppress the glucose overload, our hosts kindly accepted that eating a month’s worth of honey in one sitting is probably something not to be imposed on your valued sporting guests!

After much laughter and verbal exploration of the rural ways of life, we left to walk along the moonlit paths replete, contented, humbled and happy.

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