Blasted Blisters!

I wrote three posts in my head yesterday, but none of them will see the light of day (just yet, anyway!).  The first was a big list of things I have to do.  Well, slightly more exciting than just a list but one I can nevertheless sum up by saying:

Things to do: Everything!

Then, on my way home from the shops I felt a click in my hip.  It wasn’t painful, but it twinged – I could feel it was something.  I took a few funny steps, tried to do some inconspicuous stretching, but it continued.  Click, click, click, all the way home.  Oh no!  What could be worse for a runner than to get a niggle in such a terrible and boring way!  I decided to go for a run anyway.

And there’s the third post.  My run was amazing.  It was the best run I’ve been on in several months, the first one that I didn’t have to drag myself out of the house.  The sun was out, I was feeling great, everything was amazing and I was going to write about it all and how much I love running and all of that.

But, when I got home I discovered that my split-second decision to not wear socks was, perhaps, not the best one.  Just because Anton Krupicka pulls his shoes on without socks in the Ultimate Direction AK Race vest video doesn’t mean that I can or should.

That only means one thing.  It’s over.  I have run for a long time without ever getting a running-shoe-related blister.
2013-04-24 11.03.13  2013-04-24 11.03.05

It’s over.  And now, I know – PUT SOCKS ON!


CVs and Cover Letters and Research Proposals, Oh My!

resume-sucks-graduation-ecard-someecardsI have not submitted my thesis.  I’m not even sure what that means in terms of going ‘on the market.’  It’s even less clear-cut here than in the US where you can at least say that you’re ABD (All But Dissertation, for those who don’t know) and that you’ve passed a bunch of exams and stuff.  Here, there’s no guaranteeing anything – that is to say, my thesis could crash and burn and I might end up with no doctorate.  While I really don’t think that’s likely (nor do I think my supervisor would let me submit a crash-and-burn-style-thesis), it’s still a possibility.  How do I convey to someone who I want to give me a job that I am not going to slink quietly down the drain into research oblivion.  Particularly when going against candidates who already have their PhD in hand – submitted, viva’d, vindicated.

So, I’m presently editing (re-editing, re-drafting, throwing away and re-writing from scratch) my three most important assets in this near-hopeless pursuit: my CV, cover letter and research proposal.  This is what I’ve done, why you should take a chance on me, and what work I will do while you’re paying me.  Here’s the trouble: how to write these things (particularly the cover letter) without sounding like please hire me I’m desperate and I’d love to work for you because you’re GREAT! (i.e. a desperate suck-up!)

Now that you’ve got this far, I’d like to tell you that there’s no point to this post beyond trying to get out all of my desperation before I start (another) edit.

Good news, bad news, painful news

Today is a post full of news.  All types of news.  I’ll start with the bad news.

I’m not going to run Neonathon.  There will be no pre-30 marathon.

There is a few reasons for this, but there are two big ones.  While I strongly feel that I could make the distance now, I don’t think it would do me any good.  I think I’d be inviting injury and time away from training and I have bigger goals than the marathon to conquer.  So now I’m not going to run a marathon.  I have a pretty good analogy here, from my own life: the first wedding I went to was my own.  To use a huge cliche here: I go big or go home.

I’m not going to run a marathon because I’m going to run an ultra.

And that’s the painful news (but, not painful in a bad way.  Painful in a good, good way!)  I have two on the horizon, both in October – and A race and a B race.

A race: Round Rotherham 80km on October 19.

B race: Royal Parks Ultra 50km on October 6th.  My last long ‘training’ run before RR.

I am also raising money for Mind, for mental health.  If you’ve read this blog for any length of time you’ll probably have figured out that I have had my fair share of mental health issues, and Mr. Neon has had his fair share as well.  I am planning a post dedicated to this, and my decision to run for Mind, but for now you can sponsor me here.

If you’re an ultra coach (particularly one based in London!) and you would instead like to donate (or at least severely reduce your fees!) for a hard working, run-loving, mum and student (i.e. me), I would be equally happy.  Or, if you own a gym and might like to donate a membership, that would be fine too. (Is that too cheeky? Oh well!)

And, the good news?

Well, isn’t it always the same good news?

I love running, but more than that I love running in the sun.  And London has decided to put on some sun.  Hopefully it stays out for the marathon tomorrow, which Mr. Neon, Baby Neon and I will be at (though none of us running, despite much ballot-related wishing!)  I did do 10km today, which was good apart from a small niggle in my left hamstring right at the end of the run.  I’ve got something around 18km planned for tomorrow, but I’m going to nurse the hamstring and see how I go.

And finally – the news that has shocked everyone and has rallied runners from over the globe together:


7km of mourning.

Today, my body mourned.  It sound a lot more dramatic than it is, really.  Today I knew a couple of people running the Paris marathon.  I am meant to be tapering.  I am meant to be getting set to run my own marathon.  This time next week I would be finished.  I would be a marathoner.

But I won’t be.

I will not be running the Vienna marathon, for several reasons – not least of which is that I cannot leave the UK at the moment due to my immigration status.  Since making the (mainly financial, to be honest) decision to not run next week in Vienna my running has suffered.  A lot.  I think that will be fairly obvious to anyone who reads this blog with more than a passing regularity.  I am still planning on running a marathon.  My own marathon, which I am actually going to start planning in earnest this week and so hopefully will have a lot more details to report soon.  I’m also still training – TR24 is coming up and I’ve just signed up for an 80km race in October.  I need to get my head back in the game.

Which is why today was a big win.  I didn’t want to run.  I spent the morning reading tweets and updates on the first stage MDS and people coming in from Paris with their shiny medals.  I won’t get a medal when I finish the 42.2km of my marathon.  It’s not the important part, but the bells and whistles and the mementos are nice.  I won’t get to run with thousands of people.  There won’t be people lining the streets and yelling out.  In fact, the overwhelming majority of people I pass won’t even know what I’m doing.

And, you know what – I’m absolutely fine with that.  It doesn’t sound like it, but I am.  However – there’s always a however – since deciding not to run Vienna I haven’t really let myself feel disappointed about missing the experience.  I want to still cover the distance because I’ve trained and because I set the goal to run the marathon before my thirtieth birthday, which is fast approaching.  Instead of mourning, though, I stopped running.  Bad idea.

So today, I ran.  I went for my long run even though I really didn’t want to.  I wanted to stay home and eat pizza and feel sorry for myself.  And my body reflected that.  I struggled and struggled for 7km.  My feet cramped.  I hurt for no reason.

And then I forgot that I was feeling sorry for myself – and I ran an amazing further 12km along the Thames Path, past the ducks, jumping up and off the benches that line the river.  Having fun.  Loving running.

Because I do love running.  And now I’ve mourned – my body has mourned – and I can just get on with running.

Betwixt and Between: Why ‘liminal’ is a silly and amazing word in Classics

Here is a quote from the introduction of my MA thesis:

Throughout this thesis I have used the term ‘liminal’ with a very specific meaning.  Though the term has taken on a large array of meanings, both within classical scholarship and elsewhere, its original meaning – as coined by Victor Turner in the context of initiation and transition rites – denotes ‘a realm… betwixt and between… any type of stable or recurrent condition that is culturally recognised.’[1]  That is to say that the liminal space is defined by what it does not encompass, which are stable states or conditions that are recognised as such.

I bring this up because I’ve had a few recent conversations which have revolved around the term ‘liminal’ and what it means, or should me.  I always use the term liminal in the above context.  To me, that is what ‘liminal’ means and what liminality is.  I know that not everyone uses it in this specific context and, because of that, the term has become a bit of a pseudo-theoretical buzzword that ‘makes me sound really smart!’

By the way, it doesn’t.  Using a word incorrectly makes you look anything but smart.

I recently went back to liminality and liminal positions when looking into rites-of-passage for my PhD.  Now I’m much more likely to use the term ‘transitory’ because I think it’s much easier to understand.  I have grown up enough to not care about sounding smart and just wanting the reader to understand – without any possible ambiguity – what my argument is.
But, it did get me thinking about the poor old harbour:  liminality comes from Latin though Greek.  The Greek word for harbour is λιμήν, which turns into a threshold in Latin’s limen.  It’s related to the English ‘limit,’ as in there are a limited number of correct usages for the English word ‘liminal.’

Learn what it means or, better yet, don’t use it.

[1] V. Turner, The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1967), 93-94.

All the things I’ve learned while I should have been working on my thesis

This is a departure from what seems to be my main-blogging-subject (that is, running) for a few things that I have learned and found along the way to finishing my thesis.  None of these have to do with my research, but in some way or another they all have to do with getting a job at the end of the PhD.

Recently, Dr. Nadine Muller made this comment on twitter:

p1 p2While I obviously don’t have anywhere near the experience that she has (which you shall see shortly, from the links below) I think the sentiment rings true.  We should be helping each other out because we’re all in the same position as PhD candidates who are, at some stage, going to be thrust into the job market, academic or otherwise.

So, this is a bit of a list of links and things that I have compiled which I find helpful:

I think the best academic CV resource is, far and away, from Dr. Karen of The Professor is In.  Dr Karen’s Rules of the Academic CV is mean.  It’s thought-provoking.  It’s anxiety enduing.  It’s the single most helpful thing I’ve ever read about CV construction.  I am such a fan of TPII that I have booked a CV Strategising Session with Dr. Karen in early May (I will let you know how it goes!).  Be wary, though, that this is aimed at the US market, and therefore some tinkering will be needed to suit the UK.  Which is why you need to read Nadine Muller’s The New Academic’s Guide to Academic Job Applications.

Incidentally, this is the exact same situation with grant writing, and therefore proposal writing which follows basically the same form, obviously with some adjustments.  Start with Dr. Karen’s Foolproof Grant Template and supplement with The New Academic’s Writing Grant Applications.

These two sites – The Professor Is In and The New Academic are both amazing, mine-worthy sites filled with information about everything you want to know regarding life in academia but didn’t want to ask your supervisor.  Just as a side note, you should be able to ask your supervisor, but in case you can’t (or your supervisor doesn’t know…) then these are gems.

Finally, I want to say a word about and linkedin.  I have both (my and my linkedin) and I keep both up to date. I think is much more useful as a research dissemination tool.  That is, I have listed all my conference papers and PDFs of any handouts from them, there is a link to my book review and, as time goes on, I will put other publications and things on here as well.  Linkedin on the other hand, is much more job focused.  I have the ‘other half’ of my CV on here: education, teaching/research work, projects, conference organisation.  I also have included links to both these sites on my CV.  I think they will become increasingly important to maintain, and as networking moves increasingly online I think it’s both wise and appropriate to have a place where you can undertake formal networking (rather than informal networking on, say, twitter).  I’m not an expert at this, obviously.  I just think it’s wise to cover your bases and to do it properly.

Anyway – I had better get some actual work done.  I will do another one of these posts with some more information that I use, particularly around getting postdoc proposals ready.