October 22nd, 2017

Charah coffee

First 10K Ever

What even is a cold? Absolutely nothing. Despite waking up 1) an hour later than planned and 2) all dry-mouthed and slightly shivery, I dragged myself out of bed and to Midsummer Commons to take part in the Cambridge Town and Gown 10K, also known as the first time ever I would run 10K.

The weather was blustery, it was cold, hitting an all-week low of 10 degrees celsius, the wind was strong, I was feeling cold, my nose was runny, I'd developed a slight cough, and I was running (hur hur no pun intended) late. I got there with 15 minutes to spare, just enough time to put my bag in the baggage area and join the back of the queue.

I was with the last group of runners to start. I finished just slightly above the middle of the pack. More precisely, I clocked a time of 54 minutes and 8 seconds, almost 6 minutes faster than my target of an hour.

Although I'm pretty pleased that I ran faster than I'd thought I would, I think I could have been even faster for the following reasons:

1) I think I was lulled into a false sense of security at the start when I was overtaking a bunch of people and running at quite a comfortable pace. I didn't realise that I wasn't covering as much ground as I thought I was until I passed the 3km signboard - and I thought I'd covered more distance than that.

2) I had my iPod with me and was using my Nike+ fitness whatever app to track the run. When I'd finished, the app recorded the distance as 8.something km - which means that it's been under-recording my distances and pace all this while. This means that I have been running at a faster pace than I'd thought all this while. I was kind of aware of this when I did a 30-minute run on the treadmill a couple of weeks ago at a pace of 5-something minutes per km, and when I was done, my iPod registered my pace as 6-something minutes per km. I was confused, didn't know which one was the accurate one, wanted to figure it out but promptly forgot about it. So if I'd been running at a faster pace than what my iPod has been reflecting, then it means that I could have set a target that actually matches, not underestimates, my ability - and so I could have finished even faster.

3) I was so confused towards the end as to where the bloody finish line was. I didn't even know that I was 10 seconds away from finishing until I'd finished - and so I didn't even speed up towards the end, thinking I had to reserve energy, and so I ended with gas left in the tank still. Of course, even if I had sped up significantly towards the end, it would have shaved maybe a minute off my timing; but that would have been nice, wouldn't it?

4) And of course, being inflicted with the cold did not help matters. My nose was runny throughout, I coughed a few times, my throat felt like the Sahara, the cold weather made me feel even more uncomfortable than I was already feeling. That said, I'm not sure if I would have fared better if I hadn't been a bit sick; but well, what's the point of counterfactuals, right?

And so this, then: this is amazing. The adrenaline from finishing a race for the first time, from running 10 kilometres without stopping for the first time ever in my life, is amazing. Of course, I feel like shit now: the cold has definitely been exacerbated, my legs feel wooden and dead, my head hurts, and I was so hungry that my under-seasoned spaghetti with garlic, mushrooms, pine nuts and sundried tomatoes tasted like heaven even if it was actually quite bland. But the adrenaline, the momentary high, the amazing feeling of being on the verge of collapse when I finally stopped running - oh, the rush is amazing. Just the sheer fact of having accomplished soemthing that I'd never done before, that I'd never had any interest in doing, is pretty amazing.

Lately, I'd been feeling like being steeped in mediocrity. Being in Cambridge, surrounded by brilliant people, has significantly blunted the edges of my arrogance and self-confidence. My slow-as-molasses 'progress' on the PhD, my see-sawing personal life and Matt's temporary loss of feelings, my shitty tennis results, the fact that John and Raffie are applying for jobs and I can't even think about that because my CV sucks - all these things have made me feel like a lesser human being, a lesser self, someone painfully average and middling, as if adrift aimlessly on the Cam, untethered to any purpose, any point.

And so I really needed a fucking win. I was hoping it would be the acceptance of my 377A paper (its fate remains unknown to me), but since this race came before my hearing back about the paper, I'll fucking take it.

(This is definitely a fail, however: I just roasted some potatoes for the first time ever, being in desperate need of carbs after the run, and oh my god what an epic disaster. Most of them are burnt, I put way too much salt, and they taste disgusting. I'm really not an ang moh, am I?)

Anyway, I think the run itself was pretty patchy. I made a conscious effort to start slow-ish, for obvious reasons, but I think I was way too slow. I upped the pace when I hit 4km because I thought I'd ran much more than that; I should have been aware of how slow I was when I wasn't feeling tired and even felt pretty good. On my normal runs, I'm almost gasping for air 10 minutes in (okay, I exaggerate, but you get the point).

At 7km, I couldn't, for the life of me, fathom why I'd ever thought this run was a good idea.

At 9km, I was trying to calculate in my head how long it would take for me to run it (because I measure the amount of pain that I experience and which I have to endure by time, not distance) and pace myself accordingly, but I can't count under normal circumstances, let alone when I'd been running non-stop for 9 kilometres, so I gave up and upped my pace and hoped for the best. When I say 'hoped for the best', what I really mean is that I hoped that I wouldn't collapse - literally collapse. My chest had already tightened up, I was half-gasping for air, I wanted to kill myself for inflicting this pain on myself, and I'd given up on timing and whatever; I'd just wanted to finish, just finish, without stopping to walk - just finish respectably, according to my own standards. Those were the thoughts that kept me going.

Back at Midsummer Commons, I was trying to figure out where the end point was. All I could see was the 'start' banner. I was confused, and my confusion was intensified by the fact that the few people around me were not speeding up. Still unable to see the 'finish' banner, I did not speed up and run as fast as I could, but sort of ambled on until my path was blocked by the crowd - and that was when I realised that I'd finished.

I saw Raffie in the crowd. He was kind and enough of a friend to come and support me towards the end of the race. It was really nice to see a friendly face because it seemed like everyone else was there with someone - everyone except me. Raffie even took a really unglamorous picture of me running, which was horrifying (the only glamorous sport is tennis) but nice of him anyway.

So yeah. That was it. The first time I ever ran 10k. I'm a bit annoyed now that I didn't know where the finish was because I definitely could have sped up, but oh well. I placed 216th out of 765 women, and 761st out of 1533 men and women. It was as expected: I thought I would finish middle of the pack and I did. So it was a job well done.

I think I want to run a half-marathon now. What's another hour of this torture, right? Absolutely nothing!

The only thing is, I would actually have to train for that. It seems like a hell lot of effort. Who has time to run for an hour a few times a day? I already have trouble controlling my time running 30 minutes every now and then as it stands.

Maybe I'll do another 10K first and see what happens. It'll be nice to get my time to 50 minutes.


I've got to select editors for the journal today. I showered before cooking, not wanting to sit around in my sweaty clothes, and now my hair smells like food. This is very upsetting.