In a way, it was a good thing that I ended up doing my longest run of the training plan, and of my life, in Singapore. This is because running 17.5km at 5.20am on Tuesday definitively and incontrovertibly drove home the stark difference between English and Singaporean climate. Namely: the former allows me to run at an average pace of 5.45; but the latter? The latter blithely produced a sea of sweat in which my hopes of running the half within 2 hours and 15 minutes helplessly drowned, capitulating so pathetically to the unstoppable force of the aforementioned sea that they all but perished.
Even when I was just running once a week or so, doing these crappy less-than-30-minutes runs along the Cam, I had not ran at such a shitty pace; that is, of 6.36. I finished, just barely, the 17.5km in 1 hour 55 minutes. On my previous long run, I ran 16.68km in 1 hour 40 minutes. Surely I am not being dramatic or pessimistic for thinking that my goal has just become that much harder to attain.
Why is this a good thing? It's a good thing because I am now better prepared for the shitstorm that's going to hit on 9 December; that is, a shitstorm of needing water after 15 minutes because the humidity is sucking all the fluids out of my system, of feeling an unquenchable thirst, a scratchiness in the throat, a lack of energy and hence wishing that I were doing anything, anything at all, including defending my PhD or going to court, other than forcing myself to put one foot in front of the other and just keep going, dammit, don't stop, just keep going. But I stopped a couple of times towards the end for a couple of seconds each time because my legs, they felt like they had been set ablaze by the fricton between my shoes and the rough tarmac of the pavements. It was a formidable burning sensation that I hadn't felt very much before.
It was lucky that I had 5-dollar note with me, for it enabled me to buy a bottle of water shortly before I hit 9km, when I found myself at Bukit Timah food centre or whatever it's called. I was thirsting for water so badly way before that, and I was optimistic enough to think that I could hold off until I had completed the run to drink. My whole body, especially my chest and my throat, was shouting at me to stop being stupid; and so I stopped at an uncle shop at the ground floor of the food centre and bought a bottle of water, and because I didn't want to spend time shoving coins into the too-small back pocket of my shorts, I told him to keep the change.
The water felt like heaven, tasted like the teardrops of angels, and I would've finished the entire bottle if I hadn't needed to run 8.5km more. So I kept going, and going, and received a burst of energy from the energy gel that Chloe gave me; but still really wanting to die, hating the hilly-ness (hilliness?) of my area, hating the mildest of slopes that messed with my pace both going up and down, hating the humidity, hating my training plan, hating myself for putting myself through this; and wanting to stop, just stop, stop now and walk back, but it was only 5km more and if I stopped I would have to do the whole thing all over again...and so just kept going. That's the only way to run long distances, isn't it? Just keep going.
Just like much of life. Just keep going.
Being Scared to Shit by a Man
I went to the Bukit Batok library today to borrow Sharlene Teo's Ponti. After locating it, I walked around the general fiction shelves, wanting to borrow a couple of more books to make full use of my drive (okay, my mom's drive) to the library.
My plan was rudely and quite frighteningly disrupted by a man, probably in his mid-sixties, so non-descript that I didn't notice him at all until I turned away from a shelf that didn't have a book that I was looking for to walk around a bit, and saw him looking at me with a creepy, toothy grin. Thinking nothing of it in the instant moment, I started to scan the books on the shelf that I was facing...until I noticed, from the corner of my eye, that he was still staring at me.
That compelled me to look at him--and I was instantly repulsed when I saw the same creepy, almost lascivious leer. The audacity of his holding my gaze, of his looking directly back at me with that leery look, actually scared me. I had intensified my resting bitch face which I wear when I'm walking around London to discourage men from talking to me; but my scowl seemed to have no deterrent effect on this man.
He kept staring, and I said, 'You're being weird. Stop staring at me.'
He said something back to me which I didn't quite catch; something about the colour of my shorts (I was wearing a bright orange short shorts and a tank top). I said, 'Go away.'
Instead of going away, or backing off, he moved towards me. It was 11 in the morning, I was in a public place, I was in a bloody public library, but I was scared as if I had been cornered by a group of bulky men in a dark alley at 3am. Not knowing what else to do, I did the first thing that my instincts told me to do: walk up to a librarian and told her that the man was bothering me.
He followed behind me, perhaps not realising what I was about to do, for I turned around to point him out to the librarian and there he was, his tiny frame disappearing into his oversized, tatty white t-shirt, a pair of thick black glasses hiding most of his face. The librarian said she'd stay with me as some other library staff convened to handle the situation. They alerted the mall security (the library is in a mall...typical Singapore), they asked me to describe him, and after a while, the man left. They asked me if I needed any other assistance; I said no, it's okay, I'm just going to call my mom.
Minutes later, my mom joined me in the library and I told her what happened. She said that she saw him outside Unity and he looked weird so she walked the other way. I was really glad to see her, and glad for the support of the library staff, because I was genuinely scared. I honestly cannot recall another time in my life when a random male stranger actually made me fear for my own safety.
Later, my mom told me that there are a few mentally unstable elderly people that hang around West Mall. Perhaps this man was mentally unsound. He'd have to be, wouldn't he, to behave this way in a public library? I would feel sorry for him but I still feel creeped out when I see his leer in my mind's eye. It's going to take a while for me to scrub it from my memory.
I'm really liking Ponti. I half-regret not buying it. I didn't buy it because I wasn't sure if I would like it, and I thought this way because I read the Man Booker Prize-longlisted and critically acclaimed Normal People by Sally Rooney, which I spent 26 dollars on, and was unimpressed and underwhelmed.
What is the big deal? There is nothing special about the prose. Perhaps I am too old to appreciate a friends-with-benefits relationship like the one depicted in the book but very little, if anything, about it moved me. It was such an easy read that I finished it in two days; it took me over a week to re-read the 110-page Love by Angela Carter because of how complex the themes and characters are, and how rich the prose is.
So this book put me off buying books by new writers whose writing I may not like; hence I borrowed Ponti. I regret it now because I really like it so far. Sharlene Teo's writing is very lively and subtly humorous. While I think she could've done better to remove her own voice from her characters and differentiated them a bit more by not having them have the same sarcastic humour (which I'm pretty sure is her own humour), and while some bits are slightly over-written, so far, it's so much more enjoyable than Normal People--and I'm only referring to the prose. The writing is really good.
Also: I'm so jealous of her. That's all.