Burnage parkrun

Early January is a good time to get a few parkruns in, with events taking place on New Year’s Day (with staggered start times meaning you can sometimes manage two!) as well as all the Saturdays. This Saturday could have been my fifth parkrun of 2017 – however it was my first, as I’ve been lazy and ill and demotivated.

My good friend Maria has recently taken up running again and went to her first parkrun before Christmas. I’d promised that the next time I came to stay, we’d go to parkrun together. So we did!

The nearest event is in a park not too far from Maria’s house, where I’ve run a few times on my own. However it’s closed due to work going on in the park, so we had to head quite far out of town (lucky Maria and her husband have a car – big thanks to Joaquin for driving!).

We pulled into the carpark of a rugby club. I couldn’t see any signs for a parkrun but followed Maria down the side of a field, to a path along the river. A steady stream of people showed up until eventually there were over 200 runners.

The river path was concrete but fairly narrow, and a few people were running two abreast so it was hard to pass. After about 400 metres we took a sharp left onto a muddy path, passing through a field before being funnelled through a narrow path looping back to the start point. This bit was super narrow and almost at walking speed! Then we did that lap again.

After the second lap, we took a right along the side of the field towards the carpark, before crossing the carpark and turning left into the woods. I got elbowed by a woman who wanted to overtake but wanted me to move out of her way, rather than her going around me. Up ahead I saw people slowing to a halt and saw a set of stairs! I’ve never done a parkrun with stairs before. The top of the stairs was extremely slippery but there was gravel after that, leading back to the river path. Then we did the first lap again, a third time through the muddy field.

The final lap went to the carpark and into the woods again. By this point I was very conscious that I needed the loo! At the top of the stairs I took the long way round to try to avoid the worst of the mud, and then it was nearly done.

I rounded the corner into the finishing field and spotted Joaquin and Lucia. It was pretty muddy and I’m really unconfident in mud, so I didn’t sprint for the finish.

Maria wasn’t far behind, she was wearing a striking colour combination so we could spot her from a distance, and we gave her a big cheer as she crossed the line. She got a PB, despite the mud and the crowds (Burnage’s biggest ever attendance).

Immediately afterwards, it started raining – good timing to miss it! We got our barcodes scanned and then jumped in the car and headed home for cups of tea, toast and showers.

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Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all

I signed up for the Brixton 10k using a discount in the Black Friday sale – one of the few things I bought in the sale. With a cheap entry fee and a nice easy walk to the start line, I thought it would be a good way to kick off the year.

Last month I did a 10k in Regent’s Park and felt really crap afterwards as I didn’t do very well. And then I got sick, for what felt like forever. I’m still snotty. It’s really frustrating.

The race start was at 9.30, so I planned to leave at 8.45 and stroll over. At 8.30 I told myself I’d jog over at 9am.

But by 8.45, I wasn’t dressed and I wasn’t feeling sure.

I decided I didn’t want to do it.

I didn’t want to go, be slow because I’m still ill and then feel annoyed with myself.

I didn’t want to go, be slow and then feel anxious about the next race I did.

I didn’t want to go and then have a bad stomach.

So even though it felt weird, and wrong, and wasteful, I didn’t go.

There will be lots more races, when I feel ready and fitter and healthier. I don’t like to quit things just because I won’t do well… but what’s the point of putting yourself through something that has absolutely no positive effect? The only reason I wanted to still do it was so that I wouldn’t be able to call myself a quitter. But not doing one 10k doesn’t make you a quitter – perhaps I’m a strategic decision maker instead?

I went for a run later in the day and my stomach was really bad and I had to lie on the floor for a bit when I got home. Definitely the right call.

New year’s resolutions

Even though the beginning of a new calendar year shouldn’t mean anything, I do like making new year’s resolutions. And yes, it’s beyond twelfth night but better late than never…

  1. Read more!

Last year I read 14 books, which is disappointing. I used to read voraciously

  1. Run more!

In 2016 I ran 1,203 km (747 miles), despite spraining my ankle twice and losing all motivation. This year I’d like to run more than that, though I’m not too fussed about the actual distance. To kick it off, I’m going to run every day in January, like I did last year.

  1. Run better!

I didn’t improve on any of my PBs in 2016, so they’re still as follows: 5k 25:52, 10k 57:01, half marathon 2:05:13, marathon 5:08:00. I’d like to improve on at least one of these.

  1. Work more sensible hours!

I get paid to work 9-5, yet I’m frequently in the office at 7pm. It’s not good for me, and makes me more stressed as I keep piling work up on myself. I’ve only got 8 full weeks left at work, and I’m going to try to keep to 9-5.30 (being realistic – I’m never going to be able to leave at 5 as although working late is discouraged out loud, culturally, it’s very difficult to leave on time). Once I start my new job in China, I’m going to try to keep to my hours, though I hear that can be difficult as teachers are often pressured to work longer hours than they get paid for.

  1. Study Chinese more!

I’m doing HSK2 next month and by the end of the year would like to have done HSK3 as well as improving my spoken Chinese, and confidence using it.

  1. Don’t be so hard on myself!

It’s been mentioned by a few people that maybe I’m a little hard on myself. So I’m going to try to be a bit nicer to myself, maybe like myself a bit more. I’m not really sure how to do this without sacrificing standards, but I’ll give it a go.

Learning Chinese

At the beginning of my second year at university, I got an email from the department administrator saying that all History students should be able to speak other languages and they would therefore pay for us to take courses at the Language Centre. I decided to take Chinese, as I’d enjoyed reading about Chinese history in my first year, and fancied something different to the French and German I already spoke. My Chinese teacher was an older lady from Taiwan, who insisted that we wrote characters beautifully and didn’t like us making jokes.

In third year I carried on with Chinese, with a different teacher, although he was also from Taiwan. I even wrote a poem in Chinese!

By the time I went back to uni to do my MA a year later, I’d forgotten a lot of Chinese and really struggled in my Chinese classes. My teacher was Song Laoshi, and he wore slippers to class and openly laughed at us. He was very keen on grammar and sometimes made borderline racist comments but we loved him. We also had another teacher who we fell out with spectacularly as she wouldn’t explain something to one of my classmates, who didn’t understand but wasn’t just being difficult. I spent many, many hours in the university library copying out characters but I found it really hard.

Since graduating from my MA I’ve been to China three times, and have taken a year’s worth of evening classes. I did a language exchange for a year or so too but ended up speaking English a lot.

However this year I’m moving to China. I’ve accepted a job at a school in Shanghai, starting in March. I’m panicking a little about my Chinese – I haven’t spoken it in so long!

There’s a standardised test run by the Chinese government, which has 6 levels. I am confident with all the vocab in level 1 and know most of level 2. So to focus the mind, I’ve entered the exam for level 2, which I’ll take in February.

I have two very useful apps on my phone – Pleco (a dictionary) and AnkiDroid (a tool for memorising information, which I’m using to drill vocab for the exam). I’m reasonably sure that by the time the exam comes round I’ll be fine with all of the vocabulary.
Who knows what my Chinese will be like by the end of the year! I’m hopeful that moving to China will be really helpful for my spoken Chinese, which is really poor thanks to spending so much time studying grammar. I’d also like to break some of my bad learning practices, namely my fear of making mistakes. It’s okay to get things wrong (must keep telling myself this…).