Saturday, October 4, 2014

Rolling hills

Rolling hills provide some of the best terrain for training. Runners gain strength as their legs work to climb up, only to trash their quads on the descent back down. One can really get into a nice groove with the undulating hills. While flat is always equated with fast, the hills prevent muscles from stiffening up, from repeating the same action time and time again. One of my favorite DC races, the Pike's Peek 10k has these rolling hills, and that's where my 10k PR came from. Even if you are running on the same road, the rolling hills change things up, and provides an interesting view along the way.
Running, writing, and the dissertation all overlap in so many ways. So often, many people have made running analogies when talking about the dissertation, including the over-used "It's a marathon, not a sprint." I know what they are getting at: the arduous work, the moments of doubt, the joy at the end. However, I have finished six marathons: all under four hours. I started regularly running September 2008 and completed my first marathon six months later. This Ph.D. is taking a whole lot longer. I even got an e-mail the other day with the following headline: The two do share a lot in common.
Both running and writing take a similar emotional toll: a veritable roller coaster ride of emotions.The excitement and anticipation in the beginning, the fear in the middle, the triumph in the end.
I'm rolling along in my dissertation, but with that comes the roller coaster of feelings. Last week, I was on a footnote scavenger hunt (a book referenced another book that I thought would be useful). As I read the author's analysis of one of the sources integral to my dissertation, some of the comments that author made started to sound too familiar - was part of my argument already made by someone? I kept reading, closely, waiting to see where her winding road of an argument went. Whoosh! It just just a slight turn, focusing on a different area, and I was saved! Phew! Plus, I could factor her points into my argument, and show how there was a clear distinction. Now that my stomach's knots could unravel, I went back and started reading the chapter from the beginning. I was hooked now, taking notes and the synapses and neurons were firing away. My muscles relaxed and I moved on.  
That up and down, all around emotion has now become a regular part of my dissertation life. The highs are great, the lows are what wake up my brain in the middle of the night. But the promise of the finish line is what keeps me moving. I have two friends who, all three of us could potentially finish and graduate at the same time. The thought of the three of us, in full academic regalia, standing in front of the National Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (that is where commencement is held for us), smiling and relieved from crossing this finish line, is often what gets me to return to the keyboard and the book again and again. 

Off to make another climb...

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