Another page turned on the calendar; another month. Another page crossed off on the schedule; another week.
… As the sequence of affairs so decides, until now.
It’s May; classes are over, and so is training. This week, every single aspect of preparation completed its course. “Revise until you’re ready”; “complete the last training run”. This week was the end of the road. The preparation period is over, and now we enter the decider, the climactic period that we have been building up to all year.
It was important for this week to be a strong one. Confidence has to be high, acceptance that you’ve done all you can is the first step in assuring oneself ahead of this decisive period. For me, as the title suggests, this week was a continuation of the previous week, nothing too drastic, nothing to evoke any panic. This was a fortnight of consolidation and confirmation. All essay plans complete, all flashcards memorised; I’m primed and ready to attack these exams, as they will come thick and fast from next week.
It became noticeable throughout the week that sitting down and working through exercises and topics that I’ve repeatedly seen so many times was becoming harder. The jolts in focus aren’t necessarily problems in concentration, rather I found myself hitting terminal velocity in my revision. I knew I had done all I was capable of doing. Whether it’s good enough, whether it’s going to suit the exam style, that I cannot say with confidence. Revision this year has been made more challenging by the ambiguity surrounding university exams. With no mocks, and less obvious exam techniques to draw upon, this year feels like a real shot in the dark. Will my approach work? It could do, it could not. Either way we will learn something, and that something will eliminate the same problems for next year.
Next year. It’s not so far away. A part of my coping mechanism for this period right now is the knowledge that it can only get worse. This week was a huge refresher for the first term’s microeconomics work. It is so confusing, and the reason why four weeks into the first term my confidence levels were on the floor. The maths, the equations, the reasoning. I’m doing a full module in microeconomics next year with the other unit being quantitative methods of analysis. So I have no reason to suffer now. Things will be worse.
But if I can get this first attempt right it will do wonders. The first set of assignments last year kick-started the Flashcard Fortnight, the motivation, and the belief I could genuinely do well at university. It’s the same situation again with exams. I will absolutely love it if I do well this year. I want to go into next year eager to repeat each successful moment and more.
This exam period is therefore a big opportunity. But it’s got to be approached with calmness. It’s a long stretch. Two economics exams next week, two Japanese exams the week after, and then a huge gap before I finish with one more Japanese exam on June 6th. Especially now with all classes finished, I have to find a means of efficiently burning away the mammoth amount of time available, and above all, making the most of it.
I’m fortunate to be in the heart of London, a fortune that will most likely go hiding next year in the house hunt. I actually spent a while researching properties this week, and perhaps it was naivete, or just general incompetence, but I came across a property listed for £69pw five miles from Russell Square. The place looked gorgeous and I immediately harassed my keyboard to arrange a viewing, only to find out that the property had been horrifically wrongly listed, and that I had arranged to visit some flat 200 miles away in Blackpool. Due to this, I’m watching my inbox with dread knowing that there will soon be a very embarrassing email arriving from the presumably perplexed letting agents.
So in the meantime, I’ve been completing a few part-time small roles, and looking at potentially applying at a couple of places. There’s a lot of opportunity out there, all openings which will reward a proactive approach.
With coursework long out of the picture, life feels as if it has slowed in pace slightly over the past few weeks. Maybe that’s because there have been fewer classes, and the ones left have felt more important. I guess that applies directly to my Japanese language class, easily my favourite group of people from the entire first year. It was hard to comprehend on Friday afternoon that we had just walked out of the classroom for the last time, but there was still cause for celebration, and Jade very kindly brought us all cupcakes to mark the end of the course. We all stood and chatted for a bit, before Paul and I headed back to Dinwiddy, having another great chat along the way.
Even with classes over and exams beginning, basketball continues. This week we had a great turnout, managing to play some 3-v-3 games. We had a good laugh, and inevitably towards the end I managed to injure myself as per usual. This time I almost broke my left ring finger, but lived to fight another day, and my writing hand for the upcoming exams remains in tact; it’s only just recovered from the middle finger inflating to the size of a blimp the other week.
Yes, injury is something I’m doing well to avoid lately, and I can say with great relief that I finished my final long training run in one piece, completing 24.88 miles on the Hyde Park course. Revision wouldn’t feel complete until my marathon training was also over, and as I touched the black post outside Dinwiddy to complete the four and a half hour run, I realised that the revision rush was truly at its end.
As expected, the route heading towards Hyde Park was a nightmare, the map app on my phone being the source of guidance, yet also being a real nuisance when there were multiple directions to get lost. I managed to remain fresh though once I reached Hyde Park, the 4.36 mile torture chamber that I had so sadistically selected for this fortnight. I can’t quite suss out why, perhaps it’s the rough and sandy terrain, but after a couple of laps my thighs were absolutely on fire. I seem to tire much quicker at Hyde Park compared to my Hollingbourne route, which is longer per lap. It’s not as if I’m over doing it either, my cautious approach to these long runs often results in me practically running backwards as other runners so effortlessly glide past.
I knew though that I wouldn’t get another shot at a long run before the marathon. I knew this was my last chance to experiment. So, not only did I drastically change the fuel strategy, opting for a “toned-down” approach with no energy drink, minimal jelly babies, and just gels every hour to keep me going, I also decided to up the pace. I knew I had more in my locker, I knew there was pace to burn; this would be the time to see how long that pace is capable of lasting. To my surprise, this increased pace actually became a comfortable speed which I was able to maintain, even when my energy levels were dipping and my body was screaming. By lap 1 I had already ran 4 minutes quicker than before, and completed every lap quicker than I could manage last week. I played a risky game going to lengths at a speed I didn’t know if I could maintain, but it’s paid off handsomely, and now I have very useful information ahead of the marathon.
I also ruffled a few feathers with other runners, who were probably by then accustomed to my previously modest pace. At one point early on when I was hitting a faster speed, I caught up with another man who was slacking in pace and slowing down. It was only when I pulled alongside him that I then heard the sharp intake of breath, and the heavy strides to work the muscles that bit harder to prevent the humiliation of the overtake. Runners are a competitive bunch and they will do little to deny it, that bloke powered off into the distance glancing behind him every now and then to check for my presence. He could sprint off into the sunset if he liked though, I was enjoying a raspberry flavoured gel with plenty of miles still to cover. It’s important to remember we’re all running different races.
Two weeks remain then until I embark towards Gravesend to realise my fate. But with just 1.3 miles between today’s run and the actual marathon distance, I believe I am ready. Mercifully, the tapering period begins, and next week I shall only cover 12 miles. It’s come at a good time; my body is tired, and so is my head. We’ve crucially managed to avoid injury, now all that’s left is to keep focused and prepare for the real thing, just like exams.
Reaching the end today was a huge relief, and I let my aching body just flop straight against the nearest wall and relaxed. A woman looked over in concern and asked if I was alright, just as I was squatting with my back against the wall in a daze. I look over, and nodded my head with a big satisfied smile; I was emphatically baked on that runner’s high.
My body fell asleep as soon as I returned to my flat though, and for the whole of Sunday afternoon I was pretty much anchored to my bed.
So the hours of training are over. The planning, preparation, and revision has fulfilled its purpose, and now all it comes down to is just one man and his exam paper. I’ve been waiting for this, so much so I visited the exam venue earlier in the week to get a feel of what the occasion will be like. Next week, economics comes to an end for the year. It was the half of my degree that shocked me into genuine fear at the beginning of the academic year, but by the end of it became my preferred half, and something I now hold a genuine interest towards. It’s funny to think I was hesitant to even entertain the idea of doing economics at this point last year. Either way, I can only do my best, I can only aim to do as well as I can possibly do. There’s no pressure, only opportunity.
It begins then, five exams, two of which come next week. It’s time to embrace the nerves, enjoy some crazy dreams, gamble for grades, and do justice to our efforts. It’s that time of year again.
I will do my best.