Sunday, August 07, 2016

I am now the kind of girl who runs half marathons

I ran a half marathon yesterday. I felt that maybe I should blog something about it, since most people consider it a quite big deal. I, on the other hand, have really mixed feelings now when I have actually finished it. It was just so much easier than I expected. I expected it to be kind of a struggle but in the reality it was just a really long run. I wasn't considerably different than my regular 10km runs.

I signed up in February. I wanted to sign up as early as possible so I wouldn't chicken out, plus it was cheaper the earlier you signed up. It took me a long time before I even started my running season this year. I am not a winter runner. I needed to wait until the ice and snow are all gone. And then I stopped running. Until I started running again. Seriously, this has been the worst running season in my life. And by life I mean these past years I have been actually running and not just imagining it in my little head.

But on the other hand this has been the best running season in my life. I finally got a running partner who is not far better than me. Just a little better. Good enough to get me out and running, to get me motivated, to make me work just a little bit harder. It also feels good to share the love of running with another thing you love.

I had hesitated. I had not been running as much as I should have. I had not really trained at all. My runs have been sloppy and all over the place. But the runs that I had, the good runs, they were really good. I got the flow, the feeling that I could go on forever. Other days I felt so good about going and doing the half marathon, other days I felt that it could never happen. I felt both of these outcomes were exactly as likely to happen.

But eventually my boyfriend managed to push me on the more positive side. Sometimes he seemed to be even more into the idea of me running the half marathon than I was. I wanted to do it for him too. So all his support wouldn't go waste. If I had put one of those "I am doing this for" signs on my back, my sign would have had his name on it.

So I ran a half marathon. That's 21.1 kilometers.  The first 10 kilometers were quite easy. I've ran 10 kilometers more times than I can remember. The next five kilometers weren't exactly bad either. I was mostly running on my own, no other runners nearby. I couldn't tell how many runners were running behind me or in front of me. I only saw a couple other runners in my second 10 kilometer lap. It was quite easy to achieve some kind of a flow when you just ran and followed a single chalk line on the ground. I didn't need to think about anything. I mostly admired the landscape. The sky was a really nice when the sun started to set. The sea was fabulous too. It was a really nice route to run and since it was new to me, I didn't exactly get bored either.

The first time I experienced something I could call as a minor struggle was in the 17th kilometer. My feet didn't hurt. I still felt pretty good considering that I had already run 17 kilometers. I was just somehow getting bored of the motion, bored of running. But the urge to do anything besides running wasn't really strong enough to stop me from running. I just thought to myself "When was the last time I couldn't run four kilometers?". Never, that is the answer. I can always run four kilometers. So I ran the final four kilometers, all the way to the finish line.

And the view from the finish line was beautiful. I just sat there, on a little piece of grass, eating a banana - even though I don't like bananas - and thinking to myself that I had just finished a half marathon. That was the only time I wished there was someone with me. I enjoyed running solo because I was able to run my own comfortable pace at all time... but while I was sitting there I wished there was someone sitting there and sharing the feeling with me. The trembling sore legs, the slowly steadying breath, being so sweaty you don't even know where to start, the everything. But at least I was able to share the moment with the beautiful landscape, while hearing the list of names of the people who finished after me.

It was easy. And then again not. Mostly easy, but there were moments. I wanted it to be a struggle so it would feel like a real accomplishment. I don't know what to make of it. I don't know how to be proud of something that felt so easy to do. I feel like I should be proud of myself but I just can't. I just did something I was very able to do and achieved it with almost no effort at all. I didn't train, I barely even ran. I didn't have any special diet, any special plan. I guess I should have had a goal or something. To make it a struggle. To make it something impossible to reach. Maybe next year. Maybe next year I try to run every kilometer one minute faster. That way I should be able to drop 21 minutes from my time. That's a struggle.

Either way. No matter how I feel about it. I am now an official half marathoner. I got a little medal to show for, though it doesn't say anything on it. Just the name of the race. Nobody knows whether I participated in the 5 kilometer walk or the half marathon. At least my race bib shows the real distance.

Now I have another race coming up; my third Midnight Run Helsinki. My boyfriend is participating too, I just signed him up yesterday. It's kinda weird to think about sometimes. That I am the kind of person who signs up and participates in races. Who knew? After all I was the girl who used to hate all sports. So I guess in that sense the half marathon was quite an achievement. I was definitely not born to run. I've had to learn how to be a runner, how to run, and how to keep running. That is still the real struggle. How to keep running despite of everything.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Vad i helvete?!

Be careful what you wish for, they say. Be careful. I remember this one blog post I wrote back in 2008, in which I semi-seriously pondered whether I should study Swedish, the other official language of Finland. I can't remember why I got the idea and why I thought it was a good idea, but I remember discarding that idea pretty much as quickly as I got it. I guess I assumed it would be too much work, to be too laborious.

But little did I know... that in 2015 I would actually pretty much fall in love with the Swedish language. Fall. In. Love. I am 100% serious. I fell in love with the language I used to hate for years. And it happened by an accident, because of a stupid joke that wasn't even funny in the first place. It's amazing how little things can change the way you view things.

It started with, the language learning website. I had heard so much about it that I eventually just wanted to give it a try. I wanted to see what it was all about and whether it worked or not. I made an account and suddenly I was faced with a tough decision; what language should I try?And in case you don't know already, there is a surprisingly wide selection of languages to choose from! Hastily I decided to make a fun decision, something to entertain me at work. So I chose the language everybody hates, that I hated; Swedish.

I am highly motivated by magical invisible internet points. I love getting experience points and level-ups, they do wonders to me. So once I started "playing", I wanted to advance up in the skill tree, get more level-ups, get more experience points. I was hooked. And suddenly I forgot that Swedish was supposed to be oh-so-dreadful and oh-so-boring. That I was supposed to dislike it, even hate it. The more experience points I got, the more I was sucked in. Swedish started to make sense, kinda started to sound beautiful. It had it own flow, I liked it. I started to appreciate it. I relearned grammar and widened my vocabulary.

So yeah. I'd say Duolingo works. At least for re-learning languages.

It took me a little over month to finish the Swedish skill tree. I worked hard, one could say I was even a bit too addicted to Duolingo. But it was all for good! It wasn't just a stupid mobile game to waste some time on. I was actually, very seriously, learning something. And I wanted to keep learning even after I finished the skill tree. I started to read books in Swedish and ultimately I made a decision to read nothing but Swedish books this year.

Det handlar ocksÄ om mig

My progress with books is quite slow, but it is definitely still progress. I try my best to learn Swedish from other sources too. It's easy here in Finland, there is Swedish practically everywhere when you really start to look for it. I've learn countless new words for example from ads, street signs and instructions. Sometimes I feel impatient, like I should be working harder or learning faster, but then again I understand that it takes time and practice to become fluent, it doesn't happen overnight and it doesn't happen easily. After all it has taken me a decade to become fluent in English and I've only studied Swedish actively for a year. Couple new words every week is more than enough. I'll get there, eventually.

Besides, I am also in level 14 in Dutch.