I pity you pity me.

Occasionally I run past a gym where the treadmills face out onto the street. That means, essentially, that I run past runners who are running but not moving. Sometimes I wave and smile at them, but I’ve never got a wave or a smile back. They all stare into space with steely expressions. Honestly, I’m not even sure they can see out (but then, that raises a whole set of questions regarding the creepiness of a gym with one way windows going in – a fishtank). Regardless, I pity these runners as I run past them. We are doing the exact same thing but I am going somewhere and seeing things and feeling the wind and ducking and weaving. I imagine that they pity me as well. Particularly when it’s very hot and I run past dripping in sweat while they are in the nice climate-controlled gym. Or when it’s cold – like last night – and I run past in a hat, gloves, long sleeve top while they are in the nice climate-controlled gym. Really, neither is better or worse as long as people are getting what they want and need from the session. I never understood the logic behind training for a road race solely on a treadmill, but if you’re just looking to keep fit then there isn’t really a good reason to brave the cold when you can get what you need from the gym. Personally, I like the road. It’s free and it never closes.

Posted on-the-run on my HTC One X

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Sub-60 10km!

Yesterday I accidentally ran 10km.  I meant to run 8km, a first foray down the canal path that Mr. Neon has recently been running.  I got to the 4km turn around point and decided to keep going, intending to take a shortcut home.  Then, I just didn’t.  I felt good enough and I decided to go.  And, I’m so glad I did because I would have been really disappointed if I’d realised that I was on track to run a sub-60 minute 10km and had cut it short.  As you can see from the laps breakdown (my Garmin is set to auto-lap at 1km intervals) I also managed a negative split – I actually raced myself to the 5km mark, looking down at the Garmin at an opportune time to see that I was fast approaching both 5km and 30 minutes and so really pushed hard to make it.

The route itself is wonderful – and it will prove to be really great for long distance marathon and ultra-marathon training.  Although I’m not sure how far the path goes, the canal itself goes a lot of the way to Nottingham.

What I really need to do is start thinking about how to use my heart-rate information – I still need to do a heart rate lactate threshold workout, and I need to really nut out a good  marathon training plan.  There is 20 weeks until Vienna City, and I’ve got a marathon guide so I’m going to start working that out to start soon!  The other thing I’m looking at is some new shoes (don’t tell Mr. Neon!  He already thinks I’ve got too many shoes!) I’ve been wondering about the On shoes (you can check them out here: on-running.com)  I’m looking specifically at the Cloudrunner (endurance) or the Cloudsurfer (performance) and wonder if anyone has tried them and could recommend or not?

On the topic, Mr. Neon and I recently slipped into the Running Show in London (for literally half an hour!  It’s all we had time for!).  I got a running skirt from (surprise!) Running Skirts, and also got some arm warmers.  Both came with me on the 10km run and so far so good!  The skirt was wonderful – much more comfortable than the Nike running skirt I have (which I had to cut the silly little shorts out of – not small enough to be briefs, too small to be shorts).  The arm warmers are great, though I can see they’d not be everyone’s cup of tea.  I like to run in just a shirt but sometimes it’s just too cold.  Taking a jacket out I often get too hot once I get going – the brilliant things about the arm warmers is that you can go out with full arms and just push them down little by little.

Anyway – so that’s a thumbs up for the skirt and the arm warmers.  A hopeful good review of what is a quite expensive shoe (too expensive to just splash out on in case!) will come from someone.  And, hopefully a few more great runs in the mix!

I am overloaded

I have too much to do right now.  It’s just that simple.  I cannot be a mother, a wife, a runner, a student and a teacher and a seminar chair.  Something is losing out and unfortunately it’s my thesis.

In all honesty, I haven’t really produce anything new for a long time.  I’ve written one (bad, half-formed and half-arsed) chapter in the last year and it really has nothing to do with my actual thesis topic.  I’ve been asked by my supervisor to actually define what it is that I’m trying to do and when I sat down to figure it out, I didn’t know.  I think I know now, but I didn’t then.

I’m starting to become very scared that I’ll never get a job.  That my writing isn’t very good.  That my ideas aren’t new or revolutionary.  That I’m a bit more than half-a-step behind the latest innovation in my field and I think a lot of that has to do with my MA supervisor being very against the path my field is taking – but, that’s not an excuse any more, now that I’m in my third year and should really have shaken off my inherited prejudice.  I am reading and writing and thinking about my approach to the material now.  NOW, in my third year.

I’m scared.  I received a draft with comments on it today and one of them just said ‘No’.  That’s awful.  That’s just an awful feeling.

I’m scared that my thesis is rubbish, that my research is rubbish and that my supervisor has just been too nice to say anything until now.

Thing’s I’ve learned running, but applied to my thesis.

I’ve learned a few things about running during the last year.  In that time I’ve read a lot of websites and magazines (I’ve even been in an edition of Women’s Running!).  Until this morning, however, I never thought I could actually apply all those rules to other areas of my life*.  Then, there I was – 4km into a 6km quasi-tempo run thinking about how much I was hurting and how, there was a time a while ago that I thought that hurting meant I should stop running.  Don’t misunderstand – there are many times when hurting should make you stop.  Immediately.  There are other times when hurting is just a part of running and you should suck it up.  Sometimes hurting means you should push harder!  And that leads me to this, the four things I’ve learned running that I need to apply to the writing of my thesis:

1. Hurting doesn’t necessarily mean stop.  Sometimes it means push harder.

Writer’s block isn’t nice but it is an inevitable part of writing.  It can sometimes strike when you least expect it.  The best way I’ve found to get over writer’s block is to write.  Sometimes the pain is indicative of something bigger that you shouldn’t push through – a shoddy, illogical argument, incomplete research, lack of reliable evidence, all these (and more!) are reasons you should stop writing and reassess where you are.

2. Train through pain to race through pain.

Put yourself and your ideas out there, even if it’s scary or you think you aren’t ready.  The only way you will become confident writing and talking about your research is by writing it and talking about it.  Every potential awful question at a conference gets you one step closer to confidently answering that awful question in your viva.

3. Three weeks hard, one week consolidate.

Training plans are often written around this idea, or something very similar.  Push hard for three weeks, then fall back in intensity and/or distance for a week to consolidate the work you’ve done.  In writing it doesn’t have to be so rigid but it’s a good rule of thumb to remember that every so often you should spend a bit of time going over what you’ve written, figuring out where you’re at in the greater scheme of things and consolidating the hard work you’ve done.

4. You need to train to your event, but that doesn’t mean ignore other types of training.

I’m training to run a marathon.  That’s a distance event (obviously).  That doesn’t meant that I shouldn’t do speed work, or strength work or work on my agility just because the main focus of my training is building endurance.  Similarly, the PhD is like a marathon.  It’s a long, slow event that you can shoot out of the gate and fizzle over the finish line or slowly build momentum over the course of the event and it doesn’t really matter because you’ve crossed the line either way.  But that doesn’t meant that you shouldn’t focus on other things – teaching, writing articles and reviews and conference papers.  These are all good things to add to your training program.  Because, remember, your PhD is the training and not the main event.  Your academic (or otherwise…) career is your A race.  This is just a warm-up.

So, that’s it – the four biggest running-related thesis rules!  Now, to apply them to my own work…

*This isn’t just a slight exaggeration.  It’s a downright lie.  But, for the purposes of this post, let’s pretend it’s not.

One sentence to change your life

Demeter (seated) and Kore

Either alone or together, and worshiped in connexion with other related deities, these two goddesses have by far the most important place in the cult of the underworld.

This is what Erwin Rhode says of Greek goddesses Demeter and Persephone in his formative work Psyche (1925, p. 160).  It’s a sentence I’ve read a number of times before but never when I’ve been in so much of a thesis-funk (Rhode, though this book is seminal to the study of death and the dead in Greek religion, is not usually one of my funk-related go-to books…).  It comes at a fairly decisive point in the (re-)formulation of my thesis and wondering if I shouldn’t focus on these two goddesses in my study.  Of course, doing so would change my study in quite a fundamental way.  It would involve getting rid of not one, but several chapters (in various states of completion from totally finished and edited to not yet started), and I would be looking at losing probably another 10,00 to 15,000 words (on top of the 15,000 I’ve recently lost.)

Of course, if I don’t go down this path of fundamental change, then Demeter and Persephone – or more accurately, Persephone and Demeter – still figure very strongly in my work.  Such is the nature of looking at death gods in early Greek religion.  I think the best course of action is to continue building the Persephone-themed chapter (which I thought was finished, but I have now decided to expand and rework slightly) and continue writing the Erinyes and Demeter chapter, only perhaps making the emphasis on Demeter, rather than the Erinyes.

The big problem I had in the Moirai chapter – which caused me to cut the whole thing – was that I got a bit caught up on how much I was enjoying doing the research and it wasn’t until I’d reached the end that I realised how poorly the case fits into my overall study.  Which is about cults not mythology.  That is not to say that mythology doesn’t play an important role in my work, but that the focus must always come back to the actual ritual practice that takes place.  This is why I spent all that time thinking, oh so painfully, about myth-ritual theory, and why I must read (and re-read, and re-read) the new holy-trinity of Greek Religion Theory books (Versnel, Parker, and Kindt).  There is nothing wrong with studying literature or mythology or mythography, but it’s not me.

So.  To bed, for now.  Tomorrow, keep going.  Keep thinking, keep working, keep writing and keep moving forward.  This week I lost 15,000 words, but that doesn’t mean anything because they weren’t words which were valuable to my current project.

It feels like I’ve never run before…

Today I ran.  Finally.  I haven’t been running though the life-funk (even though I most certainly should have been doing so!) I ran with Mr. Neon and baby Neon came along for the ride.  We ran down to our local pool – just over a 4 1/2km run, and Mr. Neon did a 1km pool time trial (which you will no doubt be able to read about pretty soon over at Tin Man Adventures) and baby Neon and I spent a bit of time splashing around in the baby pool, and then a little bit of time relaxing in the pool as a family.

Mr. Neon and I tried to convince ourselves that we could catch the bus home.  In the end we ran, and I am go glad that we did.  We stopped at 4km, because my calves were feeling as though they were encased in concrete and although I live by the ‘train though pain to race though pain’ motto, I thought they could use a stretch out.  8 1/2km my first run back is good enough.

Running with Neon Crew (a.k.a the family) is great, but it doesn’t have the same mental benefits as solo running (or even running with baby Neon in the buggy), so I still need to get out tomorrow for a long run and to sort some things out in my brain.  The funk isn’t over, I’m just coming up the other side – I need to sort some things out before I slide back into the depths…