It was an extreme week indeed and I may even still be recovering!
My week started with a bang (literally!) at the start line of the Boston Athletic Association’s Half Marathon 2012. This would be my second time racing in the event, but my anxiety level mirrored that of last year’s. Even though I’ve acquired running as a huge hobby for a year now, I felt immense pressure to beat my time from last year (2:10). I knew I was faster this year and I knew that running a personal record was possible – but this just made the unknown that much scarier!!
During the summer of 2011, a bunch of my sorority sisters encouraged me to start running, but it wasn’t until the push of my biological sister that really started me going. I had been seeking a new physical outlet ever since I stopped competitively swimming after my senior year of high school; and running in Cambridge, especially along the beautiful Charles River, presented itself as not only an aesthetically pleasing alternative, but also a convenient one! Relative to the streets and atmosphere of Southern California, I feel like there’s a larger running culture here. Cars don’t hesitate to yield to sweaty runners and vehicle passengers often express their support vocally. This was one of the biggest reasons I was so excited to return to campus after a blessed summer of exciting world travels. My training schedule while traveling Europe and South America wasn’t ideal…or even existent haha so I was pleasantly surprised to be able to run right back into the swing of things!
My prerace goal was to pace 9:30 minutes/mile (compared to my 9:59 pace from last year). Yet during the first 7 miles of the 13.1 mile course, I was beyond elated to realize that I had been pacing around 8:30 because I could finish really under 2 hours if I kept it up! Too bad I died out. The last half of the race, especially the last 5K, was killer. Every stepped seemed so heavy and my iPod couldn’t even pump me up. I finished with an average pace of 9:28, slightly exceeding my goal but also slightly disappointed. Even though I had become an improved amateur runner, I couldn’t decide if I was happy or disappointed … so I ate a bagel.
The Boston Half Marathon is always a great event – everyone there has so much energy and spirit at 6am that you can’t resist smiling even if your eyelids are droopy.
It’s always a wonderful opportunity to get off campus, especially if it means investing yourself in the Boston community. As glorified as it sounds, the half marathon always makes me feel part of something greater than myself. Here at Harvard, it’s scarily too easy to become self-consumed – when I say this, I mean that students’ lives effortlessly become so busy and hectic that our calendars have us at 3-6 places in any given moment. So in order for us to feel like we’re not drowning – or maybe even feel like we’re happily drowning in responsibility – we zoom in on our to-do list, leaving little time to envision the bigger picture and all the outcomes of our productivity. Sometimes training for the half marathon felt like picking up a 6th class and I would become so frustrated with myself every time I had a crappy/slow run. But now that the half marathon has happened and passed, it’s awesome to realize that tons of people were working extremely diligently to have such a successful event too and so much money was raised for incredibly altruistic organizations such as the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Another highlight of the event was that it fell over Columbus day weekend – a 3 day weekend!! I successfully avoided academic work Sunday night by heading over to MIT where some friends cooked up a beyond delicious dinner to regain all those calories burnt earlier in the day! I had also been really good at avoiding academic work the entire weekend so I celebrated Columbus day by catching up on some reading, psets (problem sets), and writing papers. I made it to bed at a decent hour, planning to get a healthy and reasonable 7 hours of REM cycles. Surprisingly, I managed to get 10 hours of sleep – only because my cell phone alarm did not ring!
I was suppose to wake up at 9:30am for my Perception & Decision Making class from 10-11:30am. Immediately following, I have Spanish between 11:30am-1pm where the first hour would be dedicated to our first (of three) exams. From 1-3pm, I would submit a response paper for my Literature & Medicine Class right before attending the weekly lecture.
My lack of alarm caused me to wake up at 12:30pm, right when my Spanish exam had ended. I still have no idea what happened to my phone because as I angrily jerked it around when I woke up, my phone was turned off. I literally had no idea what to do. After checking my running watch and my everyday watch which concurred that it was definitely 12:30pm, I violently burst into my roommate’s room with the insane hope that it was actually 12:30am or something! I’ve never accidentally missed a class before let alone an exam!! I had even emailed my Perception & Decision Making professor over the weekend to request permission to leave a few minutes early to arrive to my Spanish exam on time! I couldn’t even rush to Spanish and offer to take the exam right then and there because I had to physically submit a paper at 1pm! All these frantic thoughts scattered my brain and I ashamedly admit that I considered quitting on life and just going back to bed to deny that the day existed. I called my sister, who was probably expecting me to wish her a happy birthday, and I quickly explained my complicated predicament in my trembled-on-the-verge-of-tears voice. She told me to just rush to class and deal with things as they came. Pretty simple, but I couldn’t have thought of that myself.
On my sprint to class, I shot my Perception & Decision Making TF (graduate student Teaching Fellow) an email requesting an appointment with him sometime later in the day. I arrived in Spanish during a student presentation and anxiously waited until class ended to approach my teacher. I honestly explained my situation in a string of trembling conjugations and she was super accommodating and told me to come to her office after my last class for the day. After making up the exam, I rushed to my Perception & Decision Making TF’s lab where I simultaneously explained the series of unfortunate events from the morning, fought back my stupid tears, and offered to write thousands of extra papers in order to eradicate all my guilt for missing class. He refused my offer after reassuring me, but also vocalized that nothing along these lines should ever happen again.
As I made my way back home after a long, stressful day of adrenaline and watery eyes, I was super incredulous that I was walking away from what felt like the most climatic battle of a huge war without any wounds. In retelling this story, I still can’t believe the ending. I’m also being overwhelmed by guilt again! I just felt so terrible because my biggest responsibility in life is being a student so having such a traumatic day didn’t only make me feel like a horrendous student, but also an awful person! All my friends keep telling me that I’m being overly dramatic and need to relax, but I’m only finding relaxation by setting alarms on multiple devices.
Happy news that the rest of the week was much more normal! I don’t think I could have handled any more trauma. Heading into this week, it’s a heavy Spanish week as we have a paper due and I have to give 2 presentations (one group and one individual). Vamos!