04 March 2011

KCL-LSE Rivalry

There has been a bit of inter-university drama going on here in London this past week. (When is there not?) As some of you may know, King's College London has a long-standing rivalry with both University College London (in North London) and London School of Economics located just down the road from us. Beginning in the early 20th century, KCL and UCL students would riot in the streets and attempt to flour-bomb each others' mascots during sporting events. In the 1970s, they stole KCL's mascot, Reggie the Lion, castrated him, and then buried him upside down in a pit of concrete near Waterloo Station. The indignity! Thankfully, we now live in a more civilized age and so this rivalry is limited to the annual rugby match.

The rivalry with LSE is much more recent but arguably more intense. (In 2005, LSE students caused more than £30,000 damage at KCL.) I suppose this is especially true in my department, War Studies, since it is the direct equivalent of LSE's Department of Politics and International Relations. My professors routinely refer to LSE as 'the school across the road' or 'the place across the road'. This week, the score between the departments seems to stand at KCL: 1, LSE: 0. Why? Well, Libyan leader Qaddafi's son Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi (who has called Libyan protestors 'terrorists' and threatened civil war) was educated at LSE and, up until this week, had strong links with the institution. Not anymore. The director of LSE submitted his resignation yesterday because the school had accepted £300,000 from Qaddafi the younger. (They are giving it back in order to avoid all associations with the Libyan regime). Moreover, LSE is launching an investigation into allegations that Qaddafi paid someone else to write his Ph.D which, ironically, focused on the role of civil society in democratization. Go figure!

KCL may not come in 1st in the UK rankings, but at least we can say that we've never produced a meglomaniacal future dictator. Just saying.

In other news, I have a 15-miler scheduled for tomorrow. Fingers crossed that it will go well because yesterday I had an absolutely horrible run. My legs literally felt like the muscles had been replaced by lead. It was really demoralizing and at one point I simply shut off my Garmin because I couldn't bear to look at the mile splits rising ever higher. On the plus side, this means that the speed session that our cross-country president arranged on Wednesday was really, really effective. I had nothing left on Thursday.

I've been finalizing my plans for the upcoming Edinburgh Half Marathon. As I mentioned before, this is going to be a very special event for me. I've lived in Edinburgh for extended periods of time on several occasions, and so, in some ways, this is a bit like coming home for me. I ran my first ever race in Edinburgh in May 2009. It was a 10k and I finished in something like 57 minutes, which, at the time, I was ridiculously proud of. Considering that my average training back then consisted of 2-3 laps around the Meadows with absolutely no hills thrown in, I'm amazed that I finished in that time. It's hard to believe that up until that race, I had never run in Holyrood Park around the Salisbury Crags because this was my 'go-to' route this last summer. I would rock out of the Consulate at my lunch break, run 4-5 miles, and then head back for a shower. I credit those insane inclines with my success in my half marathon debut in Ashland in August 2010.

This race will have additional significance in that it will allow me to reclaim something that was lost to me when I studied abroad. Without going into details as to what happened, I suffered a serious personal trauma in May 2009 whilst in Edinburgh that completely changed my life. It completely changed how I view people, the world, and life in general. Overcoming the effects of this event have been a struggle that continues to this day, and it is only thanks to the support of my friends and family that I have done as well as I have. Unfortunately, this event also overshadowed all of the good times that I had experienced in Edinburgh. Returning this past summer to work helped ease the painful memories a bit, but each day carried the extra stress of being back in 'that place'. However, I believe that it was traveling to the Highlands with my ex-boyfriend and his family that truly helped me to fall in love with Scotland again. Drew knew how stressful it was for me to be in Edinburgh/Scotland and throughout the entire trip, he made sure that I was ok. It was due to this trip that I was able to replace the traumatic memories with more pleasant ones. Unfortunately, I can't erase the trauma completely (I wish), but at least the memories are not quite as prevalent as they once were. I will forever be indebted to Drew and his family for allowing me to accompany them and, by extension, helping me overcome the past.

Anyway, running this half marathon in Edinburgh will be the final step in my recovery.  I plan to beat my 1:49:25 PB record. In fact, I am seriously aiming for 1:35...or lower. It's a mostly flat route from Meadowbank to Musselburgh (along the coast) and, ironically, is the one area of Edinburgh that I have never run in. So no chance of my being bored with the route! I am taking the train up on April 7th and will come back the night of the 10th. I am looking into booking my hostel at this very moment and, fingers crossed, will be able to find something off the Royal Mile close to the race start. (Not a fan of a hike the morning of the race!) Definitely not staying on the Cowgate or Grassmarket, which is where most of the touristy hostels are located. The Cowgate on Friday and Saturday nights is crazy!!!! There would be no sleep for me before the race! So my search is mainly limited to the Holyrood Park/nicer areas of Leith end of town.

Of course, I wouldn't say no if someone wanted to spring for me to spend 3 nights at The Balmoral.  :) No? Oh well, a girl can dream I suppose. :)


  1. Good luck on the race tomorrow.

    I wear a garmin and I've resigned to only watching the heart rate display so I do not get too depressed with my time/pace on long runs. (or short runs for that matter)

    My only experience with Scotland has involved various bottles of Scotch...nothing bad I suppose, but my body may have a different opinion. :-)

    I guess the danger of going to a well known and well regarded school is the possibility that you may be classmates with a future dictator. Oh well; a risk worth taking I'd say.

  2. I just have to know: they casterated an actual lion?

  3. Have you been to Scotland since Diageo installed the world's largest whisky collection at the Whisky Heritage Museum? Best thing I have ever seen.

    And perhaps I should have made it clear that KCL's mascot is a stone lion rather than an actual one. Would perhaps have turned out rather more unfavorably for the UCL students had it been a real one.

  4. hahahahahaha!! I never try to limit what a group of motivated students is capable of so I just had to make sure.

    I have to admit, that aside from closing my eyes while sipping a fantastic dram of Bruichladdich, I've never been to Scotland.

    (watching Braveheart didn't count either)

    Your European travels absolutely rules over mine. The only times I've set foot in Europe was at selected port cities along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coast line. The bulk of the site-seeing involved walking to cheap bars on the seedy end of town near the docks.

  5. Hey Rebecca,
    I googled "LSE vs. KCL international relations," and this page of your blog was listed on the first page of Google's results! Although we completely don't know each other (and I feel a bit weird posting a comment on a stranger's blog), I would be grateful for any recommendations or insight you have about the MA International Relations program at KCL. I've received an offer from KCL for 2011-12, but am having a really difficult time deciding between KCL and several other British universities. Any information about the IR courses, overall atmosphere at KCL, or life in London would be really helpful!

  6. Hi!

    Thanks for commenting Taylor. I would be more than happy to provide information about King's, and will post a thorough description of the university and the course tonight!

    Thanks for stopping by!


  7. Okay! Thanks, Rebecca! I look forward to reading it!