30 April 2012

The marathon

I started writing this blog around Mile 8, these exact words.

First, the stats: my chipped time was 3:36:20. You can check back to see what narrative this is, but it's a good one. The weather was really, really bad: rainy and strong wind throughout, and lots of muddy patches and puddles. I ran through some, around some, on woodchips, through soggy grass, on wet cement. It certainly wasn't ideal. The course was also had a lot of sharp, 90 degree turns that were harder in the rain. A couple of times, I thought, did it stop raining? But, no, it was just not raining as hard.

There is also a bit of controversy on the marathon Facebook page about whether the 7th mile was one mile or 1.25 miles. I'm looking at the official map and what we actually ran and it was re-routed at the flooded canal at one point and what we ran was clearly longer. Not that it really matters, but I would have liked to have known at the outset to change my pacing. 26.2 miles and 26.5 miles are noticeably different when you are trying to save a couple of minutes. Oh well.

That said, it was very enjoyable. Trusting the training plan was the right thing to do, obviously. I ran all my miles consistently, and I never hit the metaphorical wall. It was hardest around mile 15 for me, but I used my placebo of choice to get through it, a mantra: I run to find the void. I said this over and over until I felt better and it worked well for me. I run to find the void.

Running with others was better than I thought. One feeling that is incredible, something I have never experienced before, is running with a pack of people. You are all close together, no one is talking and you just have the sound of your breathing and feet hitting the ground.

Yoko and the kids saw me a couple of times and that was incredibly encouraging. I can't even say how much.

When I came into the stadium, I sprinted across the line, cursing myself a bit for still having something left and realising that I should have been less cautious at the beginning. Then again, I was concerned about my right foot still and didn't want to aggravate anything. Yoko taped me up well and I was fine, so that was very good news.

I came home and signed up for a half marathon in MK on 8 July. That will be a less cautious run.

But now? Now I have nothing between me and the PhD but myself and my supervision team. Three months left, I think. Maybe more. We'll see.

23 April 2012

99 days

My thesis will be submitted, all things in common, in 99 days. I spent the weekend here, writing, thinking, writing.

Gartmore, Scotland

It was hard, but good, but hard. My thesis is, I hope, coming together. I'm not sure if it is. I need to think more, write more, and then think more. Convergence, divergence, convergence. 

I also need to get a job. And run a marathon on Sunday. Not metaphorically. Actually. An actual marathon.

Convergence and divergence. I wish I had more words. Better words. I don't. I'm sorry. Sometime in the future, I promise.

18 April 2012


Long time blog readers will know my health enthusiasm is manic depressive: I swing up, I swing down. For the last month, I've been on a down swing, resulting from a complex set of factors including, but not limited to:
  • Training for a marathon
  • Writing my thesis
  • Writing a grant proposal
  • Getting sick
  • Applying for and considering jobs in three countries
  • Injuring my foot
  • Marking for Birmingham
I have never really felt panic before in the way that I did last week when I couldn't run because my foot was injured and I wasn't going to work because of the holiday. Panic, yes, that must be the word. I am not a person who tends to lose control in many areas of my life, but eating is one of them. This lack of control with eating is directly correlated to my marathon training as my body revolted against my low caloric intake by getting sick. It would have been fine if I was running 25–30 miles a week, but I had to stop running for five days with the flu and then hurt my foot and didn't run for a week, all the time eating more and more. 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 kCals a day. And carbs–I can eat a box of cereal, fruit and fibre, one whole box, in a sitting. 500 grams, 150 kCals per 40 gram serving. You do the maths. My jeans are tight, but I can still button them. I look in the mirror and I see a body weighed down not by fat so much, but by water. Bloated like a water balloon.

As I said to Yoko, stepping on to the scale for the first time in two weeks: I need to shock myself. Unfortunately the shock wasn't quite there: I had indeed gained a significant amount of weight (high to low, maybe 7 kgs–average to average, less than 5 kgs), but the fat percentage readings had dropped, and after doing the maths again, I found I had not put on any fat, at least according to the scale that I have used for the last three years. This is to be expected with way I had binged: I hadn't eaten much fat and had still, despite not running, been standing all day, on the rowing machine, riding my bike to work, hiking with the family—general activity seven days a week. Still, I was back above what I am comfortable at and the swelling of my body was obvious: Yoko commented on it, and when I take my socks off, my calves looked like mushrooms.

The lethargy I was feeling about it, however, the depression of gaining weight and feeling slow, melted away when I started running again this week. I shouldn't say melted away, like in a moment. It's taken three days, but the backstop kicked in and I was .5 kgs down today from yesterday, marking a turn. I'm not gaining any more, at least. I iced my foot after running—I stretched and felt lighter. Instead of eating 600kCals before running and another 500 kCals after, I ate almost nothing before going and little when I came back, suddenly feeling my body start to react. I rode to school and instead of feeling exhausted when I arrived, I was ready to write.

I am in search of some sort of equilibrium, but it seems I will be unable to settle at least for the next 6–9 months, until I have a job, but even then the future may be uncertain, depending on where I am. I suspect that by the time I am thirty five, when we have moved some place we intend to stay for more than a couple of years, I will be able to settle into a routine of health that doesn't involve as much upheaval. Until then, I suppose I'll just keep trying and realise, at least in the short-to-medium term, it will be an issue for me. And that's okay.
.   .   .

I'm reading Murakami's What I talk about when I talk about running. A colleague gave it to me yesterday and I realised, reading it, that I am a runner, at least in the sense that Murakami understands running. I'm not a person who runs to stay fit. I'm not a person who runs because I enjoy sports. I run because it's a spiritual experience for me. Murakami has an excellent note on this:
But really as I run, I don't think much of anything worth mentioning. I just run. I run in a void. Or maybe I should put it the other way: I run in order to acquire a void... As I run I tell myself to think of a river. And clouds. But essentially I'm not thinking of a thing. All I do is keep on running in my own cozy, homemade void, my own nostalgic silence. And this is a pretty wonderful thing. No matter what anybody else says.
I want to see the Japanese to see what word he uses here that has been translated as 'nostalgic silence'—it will be perfect in the Japanese, I imagine. But yes: Murakami puts his finger exactly on the feeling of long distance running. Yes, this is what I feel when I run. I feel alone, fundamentally alone. Alone in the awareness of my own morality and that there is, at the edge, nothing. This is how running is like meditation. It brings you to the end of things and instead of being cruel or uneasy or terrifying, there is the void. Just the void, nothing more, nothing less. And that's I why I run. 

13 April 2012

Marathon running

My marathon number came in the mail, but I'm a bit concerned at this point as I hurt my foot during my last big run and have had to rest this week. I've been rowing instead, but it's not the same and I'm getting fat and slow. I can feel it. The race is on the 29th and there are the following narratives that are possibilities:
  • I don't finish. Something went really wrong and I hurt myself seriously enough that I couldn't walk. This narrative ends with a trip to the hospital and ruminations on failure in light of other successes. I spin this as 'Well, I tried, but the conditions conspired against me. Hey, I'm also writing my PhD thesis at the same time: cut me some slack.'
  • I finish, full stop. Something went wrong, I hurt my foot and had to walk some/most of the way. I pushed through, however, and got to the end. 'I did it, full stop.' Narrative.
  • Sub 4:00:00. I met my initial goal for the race and ran faster than I ever have in a run of this length. My foot bothered me some and I had to take it easy, but nothing serious happened and I made it.
  • Closer to 3:30:00. Things really came together. Foot felt great, and I stuck to it the whole way. I ran fast, not as fast as my fastest runs on the training schedule, but I am incredibly happy to have done this well.
  • Sub 3:30:00 Everything came together perfectly. Despite hurting myself and getting fat, when it counted, I was able to pull it together and run like I did during training. This is a huge personal success, that despite everything else going on, I was able to do this too. 
We'll see which narrative I get to. I'm optimistic, but I also haven't run in six days... We'll try again on Monday.

06 April 2012

Good/bad Friday

I am at work despite it being a national holiday. This national holiday is religious, but no one here seems to get that. People ask, Are you doing anything for Easter? and I don't know how to respond. No? Why would I?

Why would I. I have a thesis to write. So here I am at work. I had a productive week so far and two things to do on the thesis now. Just have to, you know, do them. I marked two essays for Birmingham too. That's something.

The girls are coming in three hours: we're going to have a picnic.

I haven't been blogging because I've been tired and feeling like a bit of a failure. I was hoping to drop weight for the marathon, but since I was sick, I completely lost control of my eating. This is such a depressing thing for me. I hate not having control of my eating. I feel so weak.

The running is okay though. I think, despite my fat ass, I should be able to get to my goal. We'll see though.

Okay. Billig on categorisation. Go.

02 April 2012

Some art

We saw these Picasso prints on-sale at the department store yesterday. How perfect can you get.