This subject is the virtual half-marathon that I ran yesterday. I was supposed to run my second half-marathon in March, at the London Landmarks Half Marathon, which would have taken place on 29 March but for Covid-19. The organisers called off the event (without quite cancelling it) and in its place, called for people to run a virtual half. That is, run 21.1km anywhere you want (around your local landmarks, they said, since we’re in lockdown) and at anytime before sometime in May; I forget the exact date. I’d wanted to do it sometime last week but I was too swamped with work, so I put it off. Or maybe I used work as an excuse to put it off. Whatever it is, I’d been putting it off…until two factors finally pushed me off my ass, out of the door, and dragged me to my usual starting point on my casual runs and forced me to do it.
First, the weather. I did not bring any of my running shorts to Cambridge, as I couldn’t be bothered digging them up from wherever I’d packed them when I went back to London to pack things to lockdown in Cambridge. As the weather has been taking a turn for the better and hotter, it had been quite a challenge running under the sun in my running tights. Sometime last week, I checked the weather forecast for this week…and was alarmed to see that BBC Weather had forecast sunny days with 20+ degrees every day this week—except Monday. When I checked, Monday was forecast to be slightly drizzly, but more importantly, cloudy and without sun, the normal amount of wind, and 10ish degrees. In other words, almost perfect running weather.
Second, there were reports over the weekend about a possible ban on outdoor exercise due to the absolute fucktards who are a combination of illiterate, deaf, stupid, selfish, and pure assholes who have taken the liberty to sunbathe in public parks over the sunny weekend, and basically demonstrating their lack of comprehension skills and basic humanity. As it was too uncertain whether we’d still get to go outside for exercise this week, I decided, fuck it, I’ll bite the bullet and do the damn run on Monday.
Before the race report, as it were, I would like to preface it with some relevant information, which probably acts subconsciously as a shitty excuse for my disappointing performance, but whatever. The longest run that I’d done since the Cambridge half was a 10km run—that is, a grand total of one 10km run. I’d done a few random 5, 6 and 7km runs here and there, but nothing serious at all: no interval training, no long runs, no recovery runs, just random runs at a pace that aimed to achieve nothing. Granted, I did clock my personal best 10km of 53min and something seconds; but that required some effort. I’m still waiting for the day when I can run a longish distance at an average pace of, oh, 5 minutes and 25-30 seconds effortlessly.
The point is, I didn’t train seriously at all and was hoping that the training I did for Cambridge had not completely disappeared. Still, despite my low expectations, I nevertheless seemed to have expected some sort of miracle, or magic, from this unremarkably average body and fitness, because when I finished the 21.1km in 1:57:31 (Garmin) or 1:57:48 (Nike Run Club), I was disappointed.
Why disappointed? The real question is, why be surprised at the disappointment? I have always been hard on myself for no reason whatsoever. The quickest way to diminish the value of a thing in my eyes is to achieve it. Once I have the coveted thing that was x, x ceases to have any value; x becomes attainable, easy, worthless. It was true for the PhD, for anything that I’d ever done in my life. I wonder if it’ll ever stop being the case.
In all honesty, I should be happy to have finished it in the time that I did because it was a real slog. Don’t get me wrong: the first 45 minutes were great. It was cloudy, there was no sun, it was cooling, and because of the grey skies, the guided bus way (on which I ran up and down for most of the 21.1km) was mostly empty. But then the sun came out, and along with it, random people emerged from the woodwork, presumably to take advantage of the sun. Fuck the sun, I say. Fuck the sun because it made my tights cling to my legs, my long-sleeved running top stick to my arms. It was hot. It wasn’t boiling, but it was hot enough that, at around 15km, I started to lose motivation; I started thinking, why the fuck am I doing this? Why not just stop now and end this torture?
I also thought, No bloody way in hell I’m going to do this again, so just finish it and get it over with.
But boy. What a struggle it was, the last 3km. Although I put a bottle of water under E’s car, I made the probably dumb decision of not running to his car for a drink because I didn’t want to disrupt my rhythm. So I ran 21.1km without any water whatsoever, and under the sun—partly filtered at times, but at other times, unfiltered and with no shade whatsoever for 2 or 3km at a stretch—in long sleeves and long tights for almost two hours. Was this why I struggled so hard during the last 3km? Was this why the last 1km felt like, and probably was, one of the longest and most gruelling kilometre I’d ever run? Now I finally understand why some people don’t dash the final few hundred metres of a race with everything they’ve got—because it takes everything they’ve got to keep running, no matter how slowly.
I really should be proud that I wasn’t slower than 1:57:xx. Still, I’m quite bummed that, for the first time in six half-marathons, I didn’t improve on the previous timing. Maybe I’ll try this again; maybe I’ll the effort to run longer distances. It’ll require me getting out of bed at least an hour earlier though because I’m doing these law essays (don’t feel like going into details) and they take up so much time. It’s also because of these essays and how I felt like I was on the verge of a burn out this evening that I took time for myself and wrote the entry that I went on to lose.
Well, this entry hasn’t turned out as excruciating and gross as I’d expected it to be. The truth is, I really miss writing. I obviously haven’t been writing in here, and I haven’t been writing any fiction at all. I joined a writing challenge for April and I did manage to write one short story thing. It sucked, but it reminded me, yet again, of why writing is a need. So why don’t I do it? Why am I such a loser? When will I stop being such a loser?
I thought I might type out the part of the lost entry that I managed to take a picture of, but I’m too lazy, so I’m just going to post the picture.
I will try to write more often, even if it’s to write about inconsequential things. Writing is truly the only thing that keeps me sane. The only problem is, I spend way too much time sitting at this random desk that E’s landlords left in his room and which he’d stored outside in his balcony for the past few years, such that I suffered a cramp in my neck for a few days last week. Now I’m starting to feel some pain in my lower back. Even though I actually have home exercise equipment and have access to Les Mills on Demand, working out as regularly as I did when I was going for gym classes is REALLY BLOODY CHALLENGING, mostly because I’m lazy.
I’ll go for a run tomorrow. I’ll try to get up earlier. But I say that every single day and it just doesn’t happen. Perhaps some things just aren’t meant to be.