Run Monster

Master’s degree and memories.

This has been an extremely emotional week for everyone. The turmoil in Boston has left the entire nation horrified, and needless to say, there have been some pretty low lows. I have had the unique experience, however, of simultaneously experiencing one of the highest highs, one of biggest accomplishments of my life: defending my master’s thesis and getting my Master of Arts in math.

I have been working on my master’s thesis since August, and after finishing the writing portion of it, I had to give an hour long presentation of the thesis to my math department. The past two weeks have been the most stressful of my entire life. To my surprise (not), the rest of my life kept barreling ahead despite my having to put together this very important talk. What I say next is proof that I am only just now starting to comprehend adult life, but man, it is hard  to be responsible. It is hard to get everything done, and done well, when the number of things on your to-do list gets longer but the days do not.

Cool pictures from my talk!

But the point is, I survived and passed the oral exam. I was touched by the number of people that remembered to text me to say good luck/congratulations, and by the friends/colleagues that celebrated with me afterwards. I even had a good friend from California make it to my talk because he was in the area, and having him there was really special. So Thursday, 4/18/13, was an extraordinary day for me. In the rare moments that I forget about everything else I have to do and everything that’s bad in world, I am, however briefly, euphoric.

In terms of running, two things have happened: 1) I got my refurbished Garmin back (yay!!), and 2) my run today was peculiar, but in a good way. I was about 2 miles into my run when all of a sudden, I was mentally and emotionally transported. When I was in college I spent a month in Puebla, Mexico, and although I didn’t remember it smelling a certain way at the time, it must have – I ran past a tree in bloom that smelled exactly like the little neighborhood I lived in during that month, and for a moment, I vividly remembered that period of my life.

The funny thing about scent-induced memories, in my experience, is that they don’t make me remember many details of the events I’m recalling. Rather, they make me remember how I felt, and not only how I felt in terms of emotions, but how I felt as myself during that earlier time in my life. What I mean is that for a split second, I feel the age I am in those memories. In this case, I remembered what it felt like to be 19; what it felt like to be a foreigner; what it felt like to have a plan for my life that, in the end, is not the one I followed.

Of course, once I’m thinking about a specific time in my life, it’s fun to recall some of the details. I don’t think about my time in Mexico very often because it was so brief, and I spent 5 months in Guatemala immediately after that so the memories from Guatemala are more predominant than the ones from Puebla. It has been very pleasant to remember the people, the layout of the house I stayed in, the paletas (fruit popsicles) in exotic flavors, the mole (moh-lay, the sauce), the wedding I attended, and the sights. (A few sights are pictured below)

P1010662     P1010726     P1010840

Pictured: Street art near Tepotzlan; the Acapulco coastline; Teotihuacán – Pyramid of the Sun

I indulged for a minute or two in nostalgia for Puebla, but soon my mind cleared (as it usually does when I run) and my mental trip was over. After another mile, however, I ran by a line of lilac bushes that were in full bloom and their scent had the same effect as the previous blooms, except this time I became a little kid at my grandparents’ house in Colorado.

Every summer my Mom, my older sister, and I would take a road trip from our home in Arizona to my grandparents’ house in Colorado, and outside their house were two lilac bushes. The scent of lilacs can get very strong in the heat, and the smell permeated their entire yard. My mom has always loved the smell of lilacs and I think it’s because they remind her, too, of her parents. All of my grandparents have passed away at this point, but I realize that I am very lucky to have known them as I did. Upon smelling the lilacs I was, again, first reminded of how it felt to be a kid during those trips, but it later got me to remember things about my grandparents that I don’t think about very often.

My grandpa was the most competitive card player I’ve ever met. He would get angry if he started to lose, and it cracks me up (in retrospect) that he wouldn’t hide his anger even in front of his six year old granddaughter. He was really loving though, and once I realized that he was all bark and no bite, I sort of looked forward to his card-induced temper tantrums :). My grandma read the bible a lot and loved to cook (of course), although she was actually pretty terrible at cooking meat; she inexplicably turned every piece of meat into unseasoned jerky. She made cookies and rolls that were amazing, though. Also, she let me jiggle the sagging skin/fat from her upper arms because it made me laugh. Now that’s love.

I just don’t feel like writing about any other aspects of my run today. It was a good, steady, 6 mile run; nothing noteworthy in terms of time or route or distance (which was all calculated, thanks to my Garmin 🙂 ). What made today’s run extraordinary were these unexpected and forceful scent-memories, and those were a treat to revisit. This Sunday Lina and I will run our 20 miler, and from there it’s a taper until the marathon.

-Run Monster


A piece of my heart will always be in Puebla 🙂


2 comments on “Master’s degree and memories.

  1. linagrant
    April 20, 2013

    Kathryn!! I love this post! And I love the kind of memories you described, that transport you to a different time and place, or to a different point of your life. I definitely had that feeling last week when we were running through the quiet neighborhoods in Narberth. It actually reminded me so much of running (ha) with my friends in cross country, which is where I formed my closest friends and fondest memories. And I think even though I’m not very aware of it now, there are moments from running with you that will also be memories that will transport me to this particular time/feeling, a decade or two from now. Like, the smell of buttermilk pancakes….haha

    Also, love the pictures from Mexico! I’ve always wanted to go see Teotihuacán, ever since I took a pre-columbian art history class in college (my first art history class ever!)

    • runmonster
      April 20, 2013

      I will DEFINITELY have throw-backs to this period with you! It’s so great. And I have a ton of pictures from Mexico and Guatemala with pre-columbian art, so I’ll have to show you them sometime.

      Or better yet, we just go visit those places ourselves? I’m excited for tomorrow! Dun dun dun….

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