Year after year, I watch some 30,000 people as they demonstrate their hard work and commitment during the London Marathon. Some cross the finish line with smiles, some with tears, and some being physically supported and almost dragged across by officials and sympathetic co-runners. My own input to the London Marathon has so far only consisted of good thoughts with which I hope everybody will finish safely, and the odd donation here and there when I know someone who is running.
For a long time, I have wanted to run the London Marathon (I’ve said for a long time that one day I’ll run it for my dad, a keen runner who passed away when I was five). I am, however, not what you might call a serious runner. A few years ago, having done little-to-no running since an earlier disastrous 10k, I signed up to do the Speed of Light run. If you haven’t heard of this, it involved running up and down a hill in the dark while wearing remote controlled lights. As I began thinking about training for the Speed of Light, I went to watch some friends run a half marathon. As I watched everybody running, I started to think…I could do that. By the end of the day, I had signed up for a half marathon. The half marathon was only about eight weeks away. Did I do it? Of course I did!
A lot of the PhD process is a bit like training for a run. It takes ages, often longer than you expect, it’s sometimes a bit painful, there are good days and bad days, and other people think you’re mad. The days when you have a good run, however, whether that’s the furthest you’ve managed, the longest you’ve run without stopping, or a personal best time, those days make it seem within your grasp. Those days in the PhD process often come from a good supervision meeting, when your supervisors agree that your work is starting to take shape. My latest supervision was like this. My weeks of hard work have paid off – not only was I happy with my progress, my supervisors were pleased with what I’d achieved. Phew!
The hill for the Speed of Light run turned out to be a bit steeper than I’d imagined, and this has been the case for many parts of the PhD so far. How hard could a literature review be? Very. I think I’m over the ‘hump’ though. Although there’s still a lot of work to do on my literature review, I think I’m on the home stretch with it, for now at least.
It never fails to amaze me, how so many people can find the energy, motivation, and time to train for such a gruelling endurance event as the marathon, but then I imagine some people think the same of PhD students. Will I ever do a real marathon? Well, never say never. For now, though, the PhD is my marathon. By my calculations, if all goes to plan, I reckon I’m about 11 miles into the 26.2. I hope it’s downhill when I turn the next corner.