Ever Closer, Ever Distant

This particular point in the year is glorious. We’re in the midst of a fortnight where Easter lies just around the corner, the buds of almost every tree in sight finally burst, and the temperature regularly soars to new highs.

Even during a week full of memorable evenings, the nature of the academic year means there is always the risk of neglecting revision for too long. The thought of “I have to start revising this week” sat adamantly in the back of my mind. However, it’s no use learning any lessons if you going to forget to apply them; I sat indoors through a sunny Monday afternoon and dragged myself through the first stage of several hundred flashcards feeling slightly overwhelmed at the volume of work I need to put in for these exams.

It was demoralising; I wanted to be outside, out and about. I reminded myself of the usual “work now, have fun later” ethic, but then recalled I was in the exact same position last year.

Like summer, spring is also a time where gatherings go from being weekly to daily occurrences, rare opportunities to meet old friends crop up, and various events that take us into the unheard hours start to fill the calendar. Roughly this time last year,  I was at the Function Rooms in Rochester enjoying what turned out to be an amazing night with all those important, yet secretly I was already resigned to the decision that I had to cut off absolutely everything in order to focus and get the grades I was targeting. After such a memorable night away from the intensities of work, retaining faith in that decision quickly grew difficult. I began to forge an increasingly large distance between work life and social life. I knew I wasn’t willing to live like a hermit for good grades, but I did know that I was willing to work as hard as possible for them. With that ethic, namely the refusal to allow myself to fall short of my targets, I figured: why not do both?

Last year, I followed the “work hard, play hard” approach, and did well enough in exams while experiencing probably the most enjoyable few months in my life so far. With that revelation in mind, my work productivity has since gone up, and I’ve had one fantastically memorable week.

For the first time since I last visited Japan in the autumn of 2014, I met the legendary Yuuki Yanagi in Strood ahead of a day out in London (and yes, I did actually see Skemz). This girl is properly hilarious, and it was immensely refreshing to spend time with someone who not only shares the same humour as me, but it also as down-to-earth genuine as one can be. And of course alongside that, I fulfilled the dream of doing a Morning Musume duet in the Warren Whip. We properly belted out the classics on our way to Rochester train station; Love Machine and Love Revolution 21 properly went off.

We had a real laugh on what became an adventure of epic proportions around the sun-baked capital. In total we walked around 11 miles, visiting Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, the London Eye, and even later venturing off to SOAS and Dinwiddy- luckily my room was still spotless from how I left it.

It was a strange feeling getting a return train to a place I actually live, and even going inside my flat felt odd before, well, going back home again. One thing struck me though, in the brief period I have been out of London, the whole city appears to have blossomed into the tourist paradise we all see on the postcards once more. Not one cloud in the sky, tourists flocking from all corners of the globe, and the stressed atmosphere from the winter completely absent. At 5pm, when most people had finished work, the pubs were buzzing with people enjoying an evening pint, and you could almost be forgiven for thinking the summer holidays had come early.

SOAS too had a feel about it that suggested it was just about ready to hibernate for the summer, but of course that’s because all of its students are away revising- I have a feeling the campus will soon be awash with students in the thick of exams once again.

Above all though, going back to London felt less like throwing myself back into the hectic environment of work, but more of a revitalising day in the company of a very good friend.

It’s likely that next time I see Yuuki will be on my year abroad. Following this meeting I must admit I’m again swaying closer towards the Kansai area, but Hokkaido remains a strong option. Still though, that’s a decision for another day.

While the day in London was mentally relaxing, the same could not be said physically following a pretty decent workout on the old legs. I was tired and hungry, so I got in, shovelled down a sausage sandwich and hit the sack. The following day I was actually meant to be in Orpington for the Pokemon VGC Midseason Showdown, and had full intentions of going despite not being able to create the team I had been practising with all week. Considering I would have to use the same team again from the Euros, it was most probable that I wasn’t in any position to be pulling miracles out of the bag, as proved last time.

Perhaps it was this premonition that caused me to delay buying a train ticket until the morning of the tournament. It turned out for the best though, as even though I set my alarm to go off bright and early for 6am, I managed to sleep through it for an entire 3 hours before emerging from my bed. I was lying there thinking “surely at some point it’s going to go off”, but fate had its way, and by the time I woke up it was already too late to make it in time. No Ls taken, and I think overall the right decision- I was tired, and ill-prepared; going would have been deleterious to the concept of enjoying myself.

Still though, I was able to have a solid period of rest, before embarking into the night. Even if I went to the tournament, I would have probably been unable to finish as Saturday night was the joint birthday party of Aimee and Rachel Webb in the grand suburban town of Lordswood. I collected Rob and Gianni, before joining Matt, Brandon, Elysia, Lily, Anna, and a lit Blaze on a typically brilliant night of having a dance, getting acquainted with the nearest off-licence, and in general watching the world around me get merry. 

I certainly didn’t have to drink to have fun, and it was definitely for the best for when Matt jumped on me during “Time of My Life”; his run-up almost sent us crashing into the DJ’s stand, which had I seen the situation through beer-goggles would have definitely given us an early night.

And so after a thoroughly entertaining night, we all said our temporary goodbyes, waved a half-asleep Gianni off to Casinos, and then I hit the open road back to Maidstone. These sort of nights are the ones we enjoy the most in the midst of, and after a period of hard work; I drove home with a smile, thankful these opportunities have returned once again.

Sunday greeted us with the hottest day of 2017 thus far, with temperatures climbing as high as 24℃ in Maidstone, the course for the next target in my marathon training. The route around Hollingbourne which I had selected consisted of two 6.09 mile laps, followed by a further two laps from Warren Headquarters to Upper Street, which would total 5 miles, bringing us to a new record distance of 17.18 miles.

The course is riddled with a horrific abundance of steep and slow-incline hills, making for a real test on the muscles. In addition to the terrain’s high volatility, should I run low on energy or start to feel dehydrated, the length of the 6 mile laps ensures I’ll be pretty damned if it all starts to fall apart in the middle of a lap. As it was the hottest day of the year, I suppose it’s inevitable the run panned out as the risks foretold.

The heat absolutely battered me- and that’s not just on the back of my arms where I forgot to put suncream- after the first lap I felt like I had already completed double the distance, and while my breathing was under control, there was hardly any oxygen to take in. By the midway point of the second lap I began to feel very cold, and at some points I did need to start walking. When returning to my house I would take on a lot of fluid and absolutely demolish the banana I had saved, yet it was incredible how quickly the energy would just vanish from me. I completed the distance, but it was a slow, almost crawling pace until the adrenaline kicked in on the last mile.

It was disappointing to revisit the times when I could hardly keep myself going over a long distance, and especially during the later miles, it was a rather pathetic attempt to complete what was supposedly a “training run”. I know now that a lot of work and research is required to adapt to these conditions, which have a high probability of appearing on the actual day, and that additionally it is important to begin experimenting further with hydration and nutritional products to ensure I don’t pansy around for 4 hours like I did at the weekend.

I returned home, and replenished those sugar levels with the most glorious glass of coke (on the rocks nonetheless) I’ve had in a while before the phone rang with Harry Lattimore’s name lighting up my phone screen. I had been out so long that pitch and putt had already began, and so before long my throbbing limps covered themselves in jeans and a jumper before heading over to the golf course to watch these five spank those dimpled balls.

Golf is a funny sport- unless it’s the Masters, it is quite possibly one of the funniest activities to watch and play. Harry Lattimore’s misguided bullet shots were greeted with eruptions of laughter when they went into the bushes or rolled down the mountainous hill. 

As a result of missing the first few holes and giving up on the last ten, the big man finished with a course record of -20, before dramatically waltzing off towards the infinite skies.

All in all though, we had one highly amusing evening under the scenic backdrop of the Medway Towns, before Matt departed in his courtesy car, and the rest of us headed back to Mark’s to watch Ronnie’s Redneck Road Trip, Gladiators, and of course a bit of the old classic, Bullseye. 

By the end of it, you might as well have pronounced me dead at the scene- I was exhausted.

It’s been a week of many different adventures, London with Yuuki, a night out at Lordswood, and golf with the usual crew, however the overarching realisation from this week is how far we are from achieving the climax of this year’s targets. Exams and the marathon may be next month, but I am still nowhere near ready for them. I have completed 150 of the several hundred flashcards to learn for all four modules, yet flashcards are only the beginning- there are more important aspects such as exam plans to memorise before I’m ready to sit the real thing. And then of course with regards to the marathon, I still have a lot of distance to make up, and obviously I need to begin incorporating strategies for maintaining energy, regardless of how intense the weather may become.

It is true that time is edging nearer to next month when most of the academic year shall conclude, yet we are still far from being fully prepared. We have to keep working, because this is the period where the most intense volume of work has to be covered before it can be applied. We have to keep running, not necessarily harder, but definitely smarter. We can do it, but we have to be strategic, and prepared for all scenarios; this applies to both running and exams.

Improvement comes from acting now; while the end may be ever closer, completion is still ever distant.


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