12 March 2011

Proving a Point

**Note: All pictures were taken by the lovely Natasha from the KCL XC team**

King's and University of London Teddy Hall teams
This past week has been tumultuous to say the least. Following the events of Pancake Day, I was more than ready to leave the frenzy of London for one of my favorite cities: Oxford. Indeed, Wednesday was the Teddy Hall Relays at the Iffley Road track where Sir Roger Bannister ran the first sub-4 minute mile. Held by the Oxford University Cross Country Club, the race starts in the Iffley Track before heading out onto Iffley Road, up the High, down the backside of the Christ Church meadows, down St. Aldgate's and along the canal before crossing the bridge and returning via back streets to Iffley Road and into the track again. Total length: 3.6 miles.

Racing at the Teddy Halls was a bit of a bittersweet moment for me. Not only was it my last race as part of the King's College Cross Country and the University of London teams, it was a highlight in my running career. For it was in Oxford, almost 2 years previously, that I had been issued a personal insult that thereafter motivated my increased training.

I remember the moment as clearly as if it were yesterday: It was the end of March 2009 and I went for a run in Christ Church meadows with my on-again, off-again boyfriend Tristan. Since I was much slower than him, he took off to run at his own pace, but rejoined me for his cool-down lap, during which time he poked fun at my slow pace and somewhat awkward running style. (I run strangely, but it's ok. I've accepted it.) As we were walking back to where I lived near St. Thomas' Street, I inquired about the recent running of the Teddy Hall relays, which I had heard about from a friend who had run it in past years. It sounded like a great race and I said something along the lines of 'One day I will come back to run in that.' He laughed at this and asked why I would ever embarrass myself like that. 'Such a race', he told me, 'requires actually having some sort of skill and, lets face it, you are a crap runner.' What a keeper, eh?  I wish that I could say this was an isolated incident, but it pretty much sums up our entire relationship, which lasted up until he proposed. (Obviously, I rejected him because I was not finished university, had absolutely no desire to tie the knot with anyone, and most definitely not with him).

While I may suffer from a general lack of self-confidence, I do not respond well to anyone who outright dismisses my ability to achieve realistic goals. When I was involved in karate, I was told that I was too lazy, unmotivated, fat, and untalented to ever earn my black belt. Not only did I earn my 1st degree black belt in March 2001, I went on to earn my 2nd degree in March 2003. Point: proved. And so being told that I was a crap runner by Tristan put me on the attack. I ran my first race in May 2009 and began to ramp up my training. Which subsequently resulted in my returning to Oxford this past Wednesday to prove my point that no, I was not a crap runner. Slow, awkward, plodding? Perhaps. But crap? Definitely not.

As previously mentioned, the Teddy Halls is a relay. Teams consist of 4 men, 3 women, or 2 men/2 women. Each runner completes a 3.6 mile leg with the total times calculated to determine final standings. I ran the first leg for the University of London's Women's team. Being there at the starting gun was a wonderful moment. I got caught up in the excitement of the race and set off at a pace much faster than I could sustain, so by the midway point I was feeling the burn. But I managed to finish the leg in 23:39, good enough for 46th place (out of 202 women). The second leg (where I was running 3rd for King's Women's First team) was a different story. I knew from the handslap at the changeover that there was no way I was going to be as quick as in the first leg, and I this feeling was confirmed by the time I reached St. Aldgate's. I managed to pass quite a few runners along the canal, but lost about a minute of time when my shoe came off around the 2 mile mark. In somewhat of a vain hope, I picked up the shoe with the intention of simply carrying on in my sock, much to the confusion of the runner behind me who kept yelling 'Lady, lady, your shoe's come off!' As if I didn't notice? The problem was solved when I reached the bridge crossing the river and was told by the marshal that I had to put it back on. Despite this setback, I finished leg 2 in 24:42, earning 59th place. I was pleased either way and happy to rejoin my team in order to hear how the others' races went.

After leg 2, having run 7.2 miles, all I wanted to do was eat some cupcakes and sit down
Afterward, I hopped into the public showers at the track (always an experience) and changed into some presentable clothing. Then it was up the road to St. Edmund's Hall for the post-race tea (how thoroughly English!) and awards ceremony. The Oxford Cross Country Club had put out a rather unusual spread of mysterious sandwiches (what was thought to honey on white bread turned out to be marmalade), cookies, gummy snakes, and candy. It was a good thing that King's had come prepared. I grabbed a cup of tea and returned to our table, which was laden down with black-bottom cupcakes, fruit & nut bars, chocolate chip & walnut cookies, and chocolate drop cookies. I sampled a bit of everything and, since lunch had consisted of a peanut butter and banana sandwich on rice cakes, managed to put myself into a veritable sugar coma. After waiting around for an hour and a half, we learned that the results would be released via email due to an unforeseen delay. I will admit that I wasn't too heartbroken to leave Teddy Hall and head to the pub! All in all, I had an excellent time in Oxford. Good race, good people, good cider - what's not to like? (Oh, and no one died from consuming my cupcakes, so this is definitely an added bonus!)

Results (Provisional):
Teddy Hall Relays
University of London Women: 9th
University of London Men: 27th
King's Women's A: 15th
King's Women's B:42nd
King's Men: 35th

In Other News: 
Remember a few weeks ago when I was an anxious mess over running my first 15-mile training run? Up until then, the furthest I had ever run was 14-miles in Chincoteague ("According to this string and the map legend, from here to here is only about 5 miles. It should be fine!"). Since then I've survived several more 15-milers as well as a terrible 17-miler. Well, today I ran 18 miles (in 2:16:30). And it was bearable. Sure, my feet felt like they were going to fall off after mile 13, but I suspect that this is due to running almost entirely on concrete, which is the worst surface to run on. The Shakespeare Marathon is run on asphalt, which will be much kinder to the body (although not by much).

On Monday, I was forced to make a decision of which the full implications are only just beginning to set in. Was it the right one? Probably not. In fact, I am almost sure of it. But it was the only alternative to a situation that was miserable and, unfortunately, making the wrong decision is the risk you run when you decide to take a chance.

By the Numbers:
1: presentation left
4: 3500-word papers due before April 20th
3: Open Source Intelligence classes left
3: Concepts & Methods of International Relations classes/seminars left
2: Politics of the Middle East seminars remaining
4: weeks until the Edinburgh Half Marathon 
9: weeks until the Shakespeare Marathon
countless: vegetables to be consumed between now and then
15: weeks until I tentatively return to the United States

1 comment:

  1. Good run!

    Yeah...hard to say yes to someone like that.

    Anyway, good run.