24 October 2010

I'm Not A Superhero, Sorry I Couldn't Save The Day

 As promised, this will be a lengthier post than last time. Mainly because in addition to the race report from Wednesday, the past few days have been relatively eventful and so there are actually things to write about.

My first cross country race occurred on Wednesday, October 20 at Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath in North London. Although it was unexpectedly sunny, it was freezing cold since winter has apparently decided that it is time to descend upon London. (None of this fall business for the capital city! No! We will go straight from 'sort-of-warm' to 'ungodly-levels-of-wind-and-cold. Of course, I overexaggerate, but since I am always cold, any deviation from the norm spells disaster for me.) But, being the daughter and girlfriend of Eagle Scouts, I was prepared. I arrived at the Belsize Park tube station dressed in no less than six layers. Still, I was a bit chilled by the time we arrived at the changing facilities at Hampstead Heath. And it was there that I peeled away my toasty layers until I was wearing race attire: my new KCL running tank top (they call it a 'vest' here) and black shorts. I carried out a prolonged warm up more out of an attempt to stave off hypothermia than any real desire to loosen my muscles. Despite this, I was extremely grateful when the race actually started.

To say that the start took me by surprise would be a bit of an understatement. There I was at the start line, squished up with 200 other runners (Women and Men start the race together in UK XC races), talking with a fellow teammate when all of a sudden the runners in front took off. There was no 'drop of the flag' or 'sound of the gun' to announce the start...indeed there was no announcement at all. And so in an instance my thoughts changed from 'Gee, it's cold. I hope we st..' to 'HOLY HELL!' (except, perhaps, a less PG version). My thoughts remained much the same during the race itself. I took off at a fast clip in an attempt to regain some ground, and then kept going at the same pace. Most of the course was uphills, with brief plateaus, and then further uphills. Due to the high number of runners, there was no question of my ever slowing the pace for fear of literally being run over. It was terrifying, yet exhilarating at the same time. Unfortunately, a condition associated with my asthma that arises in the winter and is rather unpleasant to talk about resulted in the second half of the race being an attempt to keep breathing. Still, I managed to finish the 2.5 mile course in 17:54; 3rd woman on my team and 28th finisher overall. I was pleased.

Fast forward to today. Today I ventured to East London to attend the Spittalfields Market. Originally a Victorian fruits and vegetables market, it has experienced a transformation to the 'upscale' and 'artisan' in recent years. These days it plays full-time home to a number of restaurants and is Sunday host to a vast array of artisanal stalls. While there were a number of intriguing stalls present today, I couldn't afford anything that was being sold. Or at least I couldn't afford anything that I wanted (but did not need). However, I did leave the market in possession of a new friend, albeit an inanimate one. I struck up a brief conversation with the owner of one of the few unpretentious stalls, Highland Creatures. His stall sold plush toys made of 100% Scottish wool. Among the various items were 'Wild Haggis' (they looked a bit like a cross between a rat and a rooster), cats, and 'wee doggies'. The 'wee doggies' were stuffed with lavender (among other stuff), and I told him that lavender is one of the few things that seems to help (but not cure) my insomnia. This launched into a further discussion of how long I had experienced insomnia (2 years now) and the various methods that I had tried to combat it. I think he felt sorry for me by the end of our conversation, and he gave me one of the 'wee doggies'. To tell you the truth, even if he hadn't given it to me, I would probably have bought one anyways. They were only 6 GBP and fairly cute.

Yes, despite being 22 years of age, I am still satisfied with the simple pleasures in life. In this case, a stuffed toy meant for a 5 year old. Whatever.

On the way back home, I ran into a parade, complete with people dressed in renaissance clothing, the Green Man, and mummers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mummers). Further investigation revealed this to be one of the opening events in the October Fest/Apple Day celebration being held by Southwark Cathedral and the Borough Market, both of which are located near where I live. The procession had started at the Globe Theatre, where they paid homage to Shakespeare, and then were on their way to Borough Market. I joined in, snapping a few pictures as I went.

Borough Market is not normally open on Sundays, so to see any activity there at all was a pleasant surprise. Many of the permanent stall-owners had opened and were selling their normal wares in addition to 'autumn' and 'apple' themed dishes. There were cauldrons of mulled cider and wine for sale everywhere you looked! I was in heaven! After grabbing a cup of spiced apple juice (non-alcoholic since it was, after all, only 12:30pm, although most 'cider' in the UK is alcoholic), I browsed the various 'visiting' stalls.Amongst those present were honey-sellers, confectioners, specialty olive and mushroom stalls, and a number of apple-sellers. I bought several Spartan apples and a pumpkin from the produce stand.

Such is my laziness (and lack of sharp knives) that I don't actually intend to carve the pumpkin for Halloween. Instead, I will roast the seeds and make pumpkin soup from the flesh. This will most likely occur tomorrow since I will finally have time to cook the pumpkin and prepare the ingredients for the soup.

Of other note: I have officially registered for the Shakespeare Marathon on May 8, 2011. Why? Well, as always, 'it seemed like a good idea at the time'. But more than that, this is probably one of the last times of my life that I will have completely to myself. Family and boyfriend are currently back in the States and so my training for a marathon will not inconvenience them like it would if I were physically a presence in their lives. In early May, I will be finishing the taught portion of my master's degree and completing a marathon (one of my life goals) will be a nice accompaniment. As I will just be coming off of spring break, my marathon will not interrupt my studies at all. And it was fairly cheap, which is something that can rarely be said about a marathon. My plan at the moment is to take the train to Stratford-upon-Avon, where the race is being held, on Friday, May 7, spend Saturday seeing the sights since I've never been to Stratford before, and then run the marathon on Sunday! And then it will be back home to London for exams!!! Thrilling! In addition, I will once again be using the marathon to raise money for WaterAid, a non-profit organization that seeks to improve water standards and hygiene in the developing world. It is with this in mind that I ask that instead of receiving any presents or cards this year, I would be most appreciative if my friends, family, and relatives would consider making a donation to WaterAid. I can provide the details later once I set up my donation page and work out target goals. Every donation, no matter how small, really does make a difference.

My pumpkin (soon to be reincarnated in the form of pumpkin soup, and my newly acquired 'wee doggie' (whom I have named 'Atholl')

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