And so it was against this backdrop that I forced myself to stick to the plan and get a long run under my belt. I decided to run to, and in, Hyde Park because I really had no idea where I would run around my neighbourhood for such a long distance that didn't require me to look for zebra crossings so that I could cross the road without stopping, or where I didn't have to constantly watch out for cars (I almost got hit by a motorcycle on one of my runs...joy), or where I didn't have to keep dodging and darting between people on narrow pavements. The problem, however, was that running to Hyde Park requires the last of the aforementioned annoyances that come with running in a city--especially an old-ass city like London where the pavements are ridiculously narrow and there are too many people on the damn pavements because it's Paddington and everyone is in Paddington seeming to annoy me when I just want to run to Hyde Park where I will have all the space I want to run.
Anyway. I forgot what my point was...so yes, Hyde Park. The run there was about 3.5km. When I got there, I ran around the Serpentine because I was afraid of getting lost in the Park, which was silly idea because one full round of the Serpertine was probably 2km max, way shorter than I'd thought. Nonetheless, despite having lived in London for almost 2 years now, including my time at the LSE, this was the first time I was properly in Hyde Park...and I must say that, while running along the Serpertine was one of the most peaceful and relaxing things that I have ever done while running, it was not as breath-taking as Central Park in New York. Oh, I'm so happy that I went for a short run in Central Park when I was in New York with Ivan this time last year. That was a really nice experience even if it was wet and cold.
I started to run back after about 10 or 11km. What ended up distracting me from the pain--both mental and physical--of having to keep running, and running for at least another 30 minutes, after a bloody hour of running, was the fact that I'd forgotten the way back. I took a different exit and promptly lost orientation, as I am wont to do because I am bad with directions like that. Having to focus on making sure that I was running in the right direction definitely took my mind off the physical labour...and the running became rather easier than when I was chugging along in Hyde Park, trying to rake up the distance.
But wow, running around Paddington, somewhere around Praed Street, that was such a nightmare. So much traffic, I missed the zebra crossing and I didn't want to turn around so I had to wait for the cars to thin out, and in the end I couldn't be arsed and just made a run for it; and then there were all these people on a very narrow pavement, and so much traffic on the road and so I couldn't run on the road...I was not at all surprised that I was at my slowest at that point of the run.
Then I decided to run to the Recreation Ground and hit the track because why not, and I thought I might stop at the track because there was a water fountain right next to it and the promise of water was very enticing at 14, 15km...but in the end I decided, this is dumb; I'm just going to run back; it's only 800m anyway.
So I ran back. And when I stopped at my front door, I thought my legs would give out. But of course, they didn't.
And so: 16.68km, 1hr38 minutes. Could I have gone on? Actually, yes, I could have. I briefly toyed with the idea of running a bit farther but I'd already ran more than the required distance, and my day had already started late, and I was tired, and so I couldn't motivate myself to go on. It was slower than I was hoping for, but I told myself that the point of the run wasn't the pace; it was the endurance. And it was nice to know that I would have been able to endure all the way to 21km at the point I decided to stop running.
I was supposed to get my period today but thankfully, my cycle is doing its usual thing of being erratic and quite unpredictable. This means two things: I did not have to run on the first day of my period and so no excruciating cramps; and, more importantly, the chances of me having to run the actual half-marathon next month a day before or during my period have officially gone down.
The last time I ran on the first day of my period, I had to stop after 10 minutes because my cramps were killing me. And usually, I get really bad cramps when I run a day or two before my period. This morning, I had cramps on the way to Hyde Park and in the Park itself, but they were not bad enough to stop me and I kept telling myself to ignore them, ignore them, ignore them; and sure enough, after some time, they disappeared.
Another thing that really bothered me, though, was the wind. The frustrating, harsh English wind. There is really no need for any wind of that speed, producing enough whiplash to be annoying, in this country with its chilly weather; we might need wind in Singapore because hot and humid, but why does England need any wind? Running against the wind was so much effort that my pace was actually a minute slower than running with the wind. I noticed that I was suddenly feeling the physical labour of running when I crossed a bridge and ran in the opposite direction, then felt the wind in my face. I checked my running tracker and saw that my pace was 6.31. A minute or so ago, before crossing the bridge, I was running at 5.31 (or something like that).
There was, however, a moment when I was running along the Serpentine, looking across the vast expanse of water, taking in the sight of its shimmery grey surface broken by the movement of birds set against a typically English grey sky, surrounded by the calming green of the trees when I thought, this is amazing, this life, this running, this act of invigoration, putting one foot in front of the other always and having done so for 40 minutes but feeling like I could go on in perpetuity because I am alive and healthy and I can do this, and because there is this view that reminds me of the other things in life that we seek.
And so I smiled.
I never smile when I run except when I see a dog. I don't even like running. When I'm done with the half-marathon, it will be months before I run again (well, perhaps I exaggerate). So there is nothing to smile about when I'm running.
But I smiled in that moment because--forgive the cliche as I have no other words to describe it--I felt so alive. It approximated the feeling that I get from swimming in the sea; and perhaps for a few seconds, it was exactly that feeling. This lightness, as if I had springs in my feet, as if my body were 15 years younger, a sense of exhilaration.
Well, we will see how I feel when I return to the Humid Land and try to run in that kind of weather. I am looking forward to the challenge.
In other news, I'm very stressed out about the PhD which I haven't touched in almost 3 months now because the article I am trying to write is taking forever.