Life lessons I learned from my first half-marathon

Ok look, I know I promised I wouldn’t write any listicles. But I’m about to drop some real truth bombs, so listen up. For the past, what feels like 2839473289 months, I’ve training for my first half-marathon. I started off not being able to get through a single mile. Literally, when the treadmill hit 0.66 miles, I had to stop to catch my breath or nurse a leg cramp or something.

Even when I pushed myself to run more, I had to deal with all kinds of ridiculous beginner runner injuries like shin splints and swollen ankles and knees and I pretty much felt like an old lady limping on one foot around campus for many weeks. But thanks to the Couch to 5k app, a lot of Kendrick Lamar’s “good kid m.A.A.d. city” album on repeat, and the Map My Run app, I can now proudly say that as of Feb. 15, I’ve run a half-marathon in 2 hours and 30 mins, at an 11:04 pace. Not the greatest, I know, but to be honest, I’m just so proud that I finished. Running for hours at a time allows for a lot of introspection and unnecessary navel gazing so here’s the closest I’m going to get to disclosing the meaning of life on this blog.

  1. Consistency trumps skill. To get from 0.66 miles to 13.1, there is literally no shortcut. There’s no crash-course. You can’t “cram” training the night before, like you *cough* I *cough* study for exams. There’s no way to get from 0.66 to 13.1 other than consistently training for multiple days a week. I feel like if I applied this to all of my other goals, I would be much more forgiving of my initial inability, and have a lot more patience for the process it takes to go from mediocre to competent when you’re trying to develop a new skill.
  2. Competition is a good thing. When I was training by myself, I was running at a pace that was usually slower than 12 minutes. It was pretty bad. But just being surrounded by people on race day — people of all different skill levels and abilities — it pushed me to run and hold a pace much faster than I thought I was capable of. If I looked at competition as a healthy motivator instead of taking it as an attack on my personal abilities, I’d probably have a much healthier relationship and state of mind when dealing with it on a day to day basis.
  3. Don’t compare your first race to someone’s 20th. I was pretty happy just to finish the race. It’s ridiculous to expect to kill the game if it’s your first time playing. It’s great to have people to look up to and to motivate you and give you a goal to keep in mind of where you want to head. But putting your accomplishments in context with your experience is important.
  4. Rest and recuperation is just as important as training. This is something that I only realized in hindsight because “rest and recuperation” feels a lot like doing nothing. When I was dealing with pretty frequent injuries, making sure to abide by my rest days and making sure to cross-train are what helped me get over them. I guess that extends to every day as well. Don’t feel guilty about taking a reasonable break if that’s what’s preventing you from burning out.
  5. Mind over matter. Every time. When I was training on my own, exhausting the same routes and same music playlist every week, I was able to run about 6-7  miles without having to stop. On race day, with an entirely different and challenging route, a new playlist, and the energy of people around me, I was able to push through 10 miles without having to stop. It’s crazy how much of the challenge is a mental one.
  6. Success isn’t a defined destination. This is a conclusion that I’ve been arriving at, not just through running, but in other aspects of my life as well. You always feel like a beginner. There is no moment of “making it,” no matter how many goals you achieve and hurdles you overcome. I finished running my half-marathon, a goal I was working on for months. But immediately after finishing, I found myself idolizing the people with faster paces, or the people who went on to finish the full marathon. There are always people ahead of you, and always people behind you. The expression “Work until your idols become your rivals” is bullsh*t, because it assumes that your idols aren’t working towards their goals either. Your idols are not waiting for you to catch up, so the best you can do is keep working until you attain a level of self-contentment that’s not dependent on the achievement of people around you.
  7. It takes a while to love something. I think all of us have this secret wish that we’re going to find a skill that we’re magically amazing at and love immediately. But with running, I didn’t actually enjoy the process and look forward to running until really late in the game. I guess with anything, you have to invest energy and effort to really develop a passion for it. Now, after my first rest week in months, I’m anxious to get back to running.
  8. Sometimes, problems look worse than they actually are. During the half-marathon, we ran on NW 16th St., that Gainesville natives know, is absolute hell. Crazy rolling hills that I’ve never run before. Every time I’d see a hill, I’d think, “There’s no way I can run that.” But every time, I’d start the incline and realize that it was nothing close to the struggle I thought it would be. Definitely need to apply this my life. The most difficult part of a lot of challenges is to just get started.

Ok that’s it for now. This half-marathon has been a great confidence booster for me, and I’m hoping to ride this wave of motivation through the rest of the semester.

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“Good writing is re-writing”

Today was the first day of my Reporting class and it was great. I am so pumped. Slightly nervous. Definitely a little bit anxious. But, for sure excited. Just in the first day of lecture, I feel like I’ve picked up so much writing advice that I am ready to try out and work with. Current attitude: bring it on. It’ll be interesting to see how that’ll change as the semester goes on — because let’s be real, it definitely will.

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That being said, I’d like to add a new goal to my already extensive list of goals for this year: stop complaining. I don’t want to be that person who’s most defining character trait is “tired,” because I feel like that’s what I hear from a lot of people when you ask them what’s up. We’re all students, we’re all busy, and we’re all tired. It’s not a point of pride to brag about how tired you are, and it’s not impressive or pleasant to spend a conversation listing off the reasons you’re so exhausted. It’s — dare I say it — tiring. So from this day onwards, I’m going to work on minimizing the word from my vocabulary. If someone catches me doing otherwise, I’m going to need them to call me out.

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Another high point of today, besides Reporting, was finishing an 8 mile run this morning. I’m still in disbelief because whenever I see the milage slowly increase one at a time on my health app each week, I keep remembering how before I started running, I would have to stop to catch my breath the moment the treadmill hit 0.6. I keep waiting for shin splits to come back and ruin my life like they used to, but *knock on wood* it hasn’t happened yet. This half-marathon may actually happen — who would’ve thought? Definitely not high school me. Maybe not even college freshman me.

Ok pEaCe oUt for now. This week is so far panning out nicely and can’t wait for the semester to start rolling.

Inspiration, a fresh slate, and general good feels

Ok, time to get back to my corner of cyberspace that I’ve been badly neglecting. Updates: winter break is over, and tomorrow begins spring semester filled with horrors such as ~*rEpOrTiNg*~ and *~oRgO cHeM~* — both notoriously difficult classes for which I already may have a tiny knot of anxiety in the pit of my stomach.

But, it’s ok. I feel good. Even though I know it’s just the naiveté that comes with the beginning of the semester, I just have to remember what this moment of motivation and purpose feels like to pull me through the rough days. Easier said than done, I know, but all I can do is try.

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The goals: 1) Emerge from this semester fully satisfied with what I’ve accomplished and the work I’ve put in. No ra-grets. 2) Get some bomb-ass clips out there in different styles of writing that I’ve always wanted to try my hand at. Maybe even creative writing???? We’ll see. 3) Be healthy and happy with who I am. This running thing is going pretty well so far, and with the end in sight (my first half-marathon in February) it’ll be exciting to set new fitness goals. 4) Be fearless. There are so many things I am hesitant about publishing or pursuing because I’m stupidly speculating how it’ll be received and am wary of judgement. I don’t have the time or energy to waste on that pettiness anymore.

That’s the dream for 2015. I love this feeling of a fresh start, and can only try to make the best of it. Also, like most writers, having blank notebooks excites me to an almost irrational level, so that’s always a major plus of starting a new semester of school. ‘Til tomorrow!

I suck at consistency, obviously

Here is most rant-filled, grammatically cataclysmic post thus far to make up for my three days absence. 

The past couple days have been a roller coaster — a phrase which I can now confidently say is not one word and not hyphenated in AP Style, because of a timed writing I had to do yesterday for my multimedia lab. It was used in a quote by a woman to describe a week during which her first grandson was born, and her husband shot himself with a nail gun (don’t worry, he survived). My week wasn’t quite as macabre, but for some reason, weirdly emotional and sleepless and stressful and just ugh I want to go home. In no particular order, the events of this week that have built up and torn down my faith in humanity.

The lack of indictment in the Eric Garner case. Like actually wtf. I was upset about the way the Michael Brown case turned out and could understand the frustration but could also acknowledge the ambiguity of the witness testimonies. With Eric Garner, I watched the horrendous video (that for some reason news channels have taken the ridiculous liberty of playing non-stop without giving thought to the fact that we are literally seeing a man die over and over again  on television) and broke down crying at work because it was such a moment of helplessness and frustration. I couldn’t deal. I still can’t deal. I’ve never felt so helpless in something I care so much about and that’s such a scary feeling.

Mindy Kaling’s book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me and Other Concerns. I read this book despite the fact that a) I promised myself that I wouldn’t pick up another book until I finished Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone which I have been trying to get through since summer and b) it’s currently finals week so I really shouldn’t be reading for pleasure anyways. That being said, it was great. It reminded me how much work and failure and rejection it takes to get anywhere in life. It made me laugh when I was pissed off at everything. Which, in turn, reminded me how essential entertainers and commentators and comedy are to society. When I was younger, I don’t think I had every very many opportunities to read/experience any form of entertainment media in the U.S. by South Asian Americans. But recently, I don’t know if I’ve become more aware, or if there are actually more by number, I’ve found so many great writers. Atul Gawande, Mindy Kaling, Aasif Mandvi, Abraham Verghese — even seeing that new kid Hassan Minhaj on the Daily Show makes me so happy. It’s so validating to see snippets of your own experience, and acknowledgement of your frustrations, told in the stories of others.

The stupid shooting threat at my school. I can’t stand people who go out of their way to make people feel unsafe. I don’t understand what is accomplished by that and it just makes me mad. So when I got an alert by my school about a Twitter shooting threat, my internal monologue was 1.) “aw hell no” followed by 2.) little bit of fear followed by 3.) John Oliver saying “There have always been motherf***ers, there will always be motherf***ers, but what we can’t do is let them control our motherf***ing lives.” And then I wrote up a story about the threat for USA Today College that got edited and published with a bunch of grammatical errors and typos but got 1.2k shares so I guess it’s ok in the end.

The ridiculous Rolling Stone / UVA rape case drama that’s going down. It’s so frustrating that such basic journalistic standards of ethics were completely ignored, which will, in the long run, harm the already marginalized and stigmatized voices of rape victims. While Rolling Stone may be able to save face with great PR (and they’ve already released statements covering their backs) this endangers so many victims and their willingness to come forward with their stories. Beyond annoyed, beyond frustrated.

My last day of lecture and lab in my favorite class of the semester: Multimedia Writing. I loved this class so much. I could go on for a while about all of the things that were amazing about it. And it’s my blog, so I’ll go ahead and do that. I learned a lot. The construction of the class was ingenious in the way that at the beginning of the semester, we were given a fact sheet and pretty much told how to construct ledes, nut grafs, and all of the the components of a news story — something that most of us were completely unfamiliar and uncomfortable with. But, each week, they would slowly take away some of the help, to the point that now, at the end of the semester, we can confidently interview, write, and get published a story without a rubric, in a style of writing that we literally had no idea how to work with just 14 weeks prior. It makes me love writing so much more, I feel so much more confident, and I’m so much more excited about my future journalism classes. The same cannot be said about orgo chem because jeez that class has just been one massive train wreck from start to end.

The last day of lecture in multimedia, our amazing professor read us a speech someone gave at a 50-year college reunion or something that pretty much listed all of the technological innovations and advancements and events and changes that had happened between college graduation and where they were now. And at first, it was inspiring because you realize how far we have come — in terms of media, communications and technology — in such a short amount of time. But, the more I think about it, the scarier it is. Everything I’m learning about now, everything I care about now, has the potential to become completely and utterly obsolete in just my lifetime. And as inevitable and obvious as that statement is, it’s really disheartening and makes me have all kinds of existential feels that I don’t know how to cope with because I am young and inexperienced and jacked up on caffeine and frightened by the concept of finiteness. Peace out.

I wish I was funny but I guess sassy is ok

I really really admire people who are are able to make people laugh with ease. It’s a weird mix of awe and envy, because I don’t think that I have the eye for that irony and wit that you need to be a genuinely funny person. There’s a certain level of emotional intelligence coupled with acute observational skills that I think funny people seem to inherently possess that I would love to have.

Today, I watched way too many episodes of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and was reminded of how much talent it takes to really do well in comedy — a precise balance of uniqueness and relatability. If I could have even half of those skills, I would be satisfied.

I’ve consciously attempted humorous writing only a handful of times, and it feels like such an uncomfortable charade of a person I am not, that I usually end of up deleting it long before any other eyes read it.

The exception was when I made an absolutely disastrous attempt at satire in one of my college application essays, that at the moment I thought to be genuinely funny, but now makes me cringe. I literally can’t get through the first couple sentences without feeling to urge to backhand my awkward and incredibly conceited and self-assured high school self. It was a response to the prompt, “A space exploration has successfully transported the first human colonists to the planet Mars. What are the first three laws that must be put into place, and why?” (Damn you UChicago for your new-agey college application essay prompts) and I named the organization responsible for the successful space exploration “MnogoDeneg” — Russian for “Big Money.” And that’s just the start of my horrible, sophomoric attempts at satirizing the evils of capitalism, from all of the wisdom and perspective of a 17-year-old.

Maybe, by reading and studying enough really great writing, I’ll someday be able to wield the tools of humor as effortlessly as I would like. But the closest I’ve gotten was today, when someone said my latest UF Honors blog post was “sassy.” I guess I can live with that for now.

 

Someone please take the internet away from me

I do this thing where when I get into something, whether a franchise, celebrity, or a book or movie, I obsessively research it to the point of actual concern. When I went through  my Pirates of the Caribbean phase in middle school, I watched all of the movies too many times to count, and have probably seen every video on the internet that in any way relates to the franchise. I watched the all of the DVD extras, along with the audio commentary of all of the films multiple times. I learned how to play the music from the soundtrack on my flute. I learned the proper terminology for the parts of a ship. I annoyed all of my friends with random bits of pirate trivia. It was insane. But, I grew out of it within a couple years.

I do that with everything that I take a liking to — The Harry Potter books, John Green, Doctor Who, Anderson Cooper, and most recently, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It doesn’t help that they have every episode of the show from 1999 is available for free online, and that YouTube makes available every Jon Stewart interview and stand-up routine since 1994 at my fingertips.

That being said, Jon Stewart’s whole rise to fame is actually really inspiring, and I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for comedians in general. There’s a bunch of Stewart’s failed attempts at movies, and a hilarious stand up bit about him living alone with his cat in an apartment in NYC. On a Howard Stern interview, he talks about how coming home from his first Letterman interview back to his crappy apartment was a reality check about how fame and celebrity doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a needed reminder about how much work and struggle actually goes in (for most people) to get to where they are today.

What really stuck with me though: there’s an interview with David Letterman from 1996, after Jon Stewart’s show on MTV just got cancelled, and this young, more hyperactive version of the Stewart we know today spends the whole segment making jokes about how his career is ended, how he doesn’t classify as a “celebrity” any more, etc. etc. It’s so exciting to watch, because you do know what comes after that interview — that he doesn’t disappear into obscurity, but becomes more relevant than ever before once he gets The Daily Show. It’s a comforting reminder to know that people you admire, and who are on seemingly untouchable perches of fame and success, have to deal with the same ups and downs of life as the rest of us.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Today being the last day of Thanksgiving break, a general sense of panic is settling in — which likely won’t abate until the start of winter break. Only two weeks are left of the fall semester, and all of the work that I class work I may have slacked off on is coming back with a vengeance. Finals week (aka Hell week) from freshman year is literally the worst experience of college I’ve had… a dark stain on what was an otherwise great year of new friends, experiences, and acclimation to the college environment. Too many late — yet unproductive — nights leading up to exams was a harsh reality check on the fact that none of us really knew how to study coming in to college.

I’ve learned so much in the past year about the basics of a good work-ethic that my self-assured freshman self thought she already knew. Hopefully, I won’t repeat some of the same mistakes I made last year in my freshman-year naiveté. That being said, these next two weeks are going to be rough as hell, no matter what I do.

I’m so looking forward to winter break and what will hopefully be a non-stop reading marathon. This semester, my “to-read” list has grown to a near unmanageable length, so the goal is to blaze through as many of them as possible when I have time off. I’ve tried to incentivize it in this way: work as hard as you can the next two weeks to make winter break feel that much more deserved and enjoyable. Hopefully that’ll be enough to keep me motivated through the maelstrom of finals week.