Posted by: jleventon | September 12, 2011

Running away from my thesis

I haven’t written for a while because I have been a little distracted with papers and job applications… and a lot of running.  I have run almost my entire life, and have been a competitive athlete throughout my twenties (1500/5000m on track with the occasional half marathon for fun).  I once said in #PhDChat that running defines me as much as my research.  But I did a track race shortly after submitting ‘The Thesis’ and was shocked at how just how unfit I was; I was being easily beaten by people I should have been showing a clean pair of heels to.  I felt like I was barely an athlete anymore because ‘The Thesis’ had taken over the running.

Pre-thesis, I saw running as a way to clarify my thoughts.  I have to put brain power into training. I have to concentrate on the terrain or on the pace, making sure I keep pushing through speed reps or am regulating the speed on longer runs; not too fast, but not to drift too much either.  When I turn on the training part of my brain, the academic bit of my brain is tidying itself up. When I sit back down at my desk, things I have been struggling with for hours suddenly seem to be filed in the right place and I get a lot done.

During ‘The Thesis’ I had no brain power left to turn on ‘training’ mode.  I could just about manage short, easy runs, but could not do anything hard and if the weather was bad I just didn’t go.

Pre-thesis, running helped me to plan work and remain focussed.  I don’t want to miss training because I have failed to finish something.  Like many people, I tend to break work into smaller tasks and schedule them.  Training twice per day provides a large amount of structure around which to create such a schedule.  Obviously in working with other people and doing fieldwork I have to remain flexible, but as a general way of shaping my days, this seems to work.

During ‘The Thesis’, because I wasn’t able to think about running in the same way anymore, I started to try to fit running around my thesis.  I would promise myself that I would go running when I wrote something worth writing. Unfortunately, I rarely felt like I had got to this point, and when I did it was usually in the small hours of the morning.

Its now three months since my defence.  I went through a period of just running and doing very little work (and no blogging, tweeting, etc).  During this period, I went away with my Czech training group to the High Tatras in Slovakia for the hardest week of training I have ever done and I followed it up with a month of intense training that left me exhausted.  Now I am back feeling busy but happily fitting in both work and running, with a bit of socialising too.  I am racing this weekend, so I guess I will find out just how much the balance has been restored!

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