Isolation activities: thesis writing and running

I’ve been keeping to myself these past few weeks because I’ve needed to really focus on getting this thesis done. Yes, I already had a first draft way back in December 2013, and, truth be told, it was not my best work. I just wanted it out the way. Now, I’ve had to return to the original draft and start the slow process of picking it apart before putting back together. The resulting draft is much more streamlined, focused and something that I’m beginning to feel proud of. It’s been an interesting, yet unexpected switch of emotions.


Me and my new shoes, just after a run.

Amidst all the writing, teaching, marking, university administrative activities I felt the pressure to ‘get out’ – literally. To get some air. To do something that was just for me. So I’ve take up running. This isn’t my first encounter with the sport. I’ve been a runner for as long as I could remember. The past few years I’ve been interested in different sports and activities, like yoga and weightlifting – and enjoy them immensely. I guess, lately, running has been a very convenient way of keeping my sanity. I find running a way of finding some head space. I don’t think of my thesis when I run. I don’t think of ideas for journal articles or analyse theories I’ve been working on. In fact I try not to think of anything at all, and that’s the most amazing part.

Writing this thesis and running long distances are rather isolating activities. I think at a different point in time I would expect to feel very lonely.  However, these days, I revel in the fact that I’m left alone. I’m enjoying the space I’ve been given to focus on writing and, with the weather improving day by day (fingers crossed) I run to find that void that gives me a break from myself.

Resources I found useful:

The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances”,  The Oatmeal. I can relate a lot to this comic, particularly the section on beating The Blerch.

“What I talk about when I talk about running”, Haruki Murakami – In his comic, The Oatmeal mentions running “to find a void”, which he credits Murakami’s book for the phrase. So I read this book to try to understand what Murakami was talking about.

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Thesis editing slumps, spring, and running

I’ve been editing my thesis so intensely these past few weeks and I feel rather *ugh*. Actually it’s more like “THESIS EVERYWHERE! CAN’T ESCAPE!”, y’know, that kind of feeling. I can understand now why final year PhD students seems to disappear for months at a time. For me, I’m not quite in the head space to socialise and at the moment I know I am a thesis bore. It’s all I can really talk about nowadays. I sometimes get into a mental slump these past few weeks, because editing is really, really hard. I’ve had to become very strict with my time so that I can focus properly on what I’m doing, but, the end result has been polished, or nearly polished chapters – a very good pay off to my self-imposed isolation.


New running shoes! After 5 years I thought it was time to replace the old pair. Photo my own via instagram (@eljeej).

That is why I’m thankful it’s spring. The warmer temperatures and the longer daylight hours have helped my mental outlook immensely. I spend most of the day indoors in front of a computer so I do make it a point to go out, everyday, and get some fresh air. For me, this is in the form of running. I used to run more regularly when I lived closer to town, but stopped because my current neighbourhood isn’t ideal, in my opinion, for running alone in the dark (early morning or evening).  During the cooler (and darker) parts of the year I’ve been weight lifting at the gym instead. However, there’s something about being outdoors that makes running more appealing this time of year. So I get out of the house, out from behind my desk, and give myself a physical break from my thesis. This has helped me to stay more positive so that I can keep working.

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My guest blog post on “PhD Life Blog” (University of Warwick)

Courtesy of Hythe Eye on Flickr (Creative Commons)Have a read of my guest blog post “Final Year Writing Gymnastics” at PhD Life Blog (@ResearchEx) at The University of Warwick, with Tomi Oladepo (@Tomi_ola) as their current editor.

Check it out by clicking this link:

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