Yesterday I took part in my first 24 hour readathon. I have been aware of this event for a couple of years but I've not been able to take part before. The start time of 13:00 on a Saturday (to reflect the official starting time in America) was no good to me when I was a student and when I began working in a 'proper' weekday job.
Then I noticed that some participants were bending the rules. Yes, they were reading for 24 hours but they started at 00:01 according to their time zones. Now this I could sign up to. You can read my blog posts about the day here:
I admit that I found the first 10 hours quite hard. On Friday I was working a very long day and included travelling across the country and back (it doesn't sound too bad when you consider that you can do it in 45 minutes on the train). However it got better as the clock moved around to the official start time of the readathon. Twitter certainly got busier and was a welcome help when I hit a reading block.
These are the main lessons I learnt from the readathon:
Don't worry if you fall asleep
I nodded off 05:00 – 08:00 and woke up in a major panic. How could I miss three hours? Did that mean I would be kicked off the readthon? Of course not. No one expects you to be superhuman. If you find yourself nodding off, give in to the snoozes. Your body will thank you for it as you head towards Hour 19.
Snacks are very important
I should have guessed that any event involving books would make snacks a very important topic. On my Friday commute home, I was horrified to realise I had no snacks in the house apart from some sad looking bananas. A mad dash to the shops left me with some bags of pretzels and hummus which disappeared rather quick. On Saturday Him Indoors very kindly made a dash to the shops to pick up some vegan sushi and crisps. Next time I plan to be better prepared and not run out of snacks at Hour 14.
This week I have been trying to cut down on coffee for health reasons. It did leave me a bit concerned that I would not be able to consume coffee to get through the 24 hours. In the end my total coffee intake amounted to one large strong mug of cafeteria coffee at 10:00 and a top up coffee at 17:00. One big difference is that I had been drinking more water during the readathon. So more water, less coffee!
Check the pages of your books
I thought I had made a very careful decision about which books I chose for the readathon. Not careful enough. I decided to leave The Golden Notebook because it came in at over 600 pages and had tiny, tiny print. This decision was made at Hour 18 of the readathon which was not the best time to make this discovery. At Hour 22 you do not want to be screwing up your eyes, trying to read the smallest typeface known to human kind.
It's OK to give up on books
I decided to give up on Sexual Politics in the early hours of Saturday morning. Whilst I was enjoying the book, the readathon is perhaps not the best place to be tackling quite heavy feminist theory. My two favourite reads, Tamburlaine Must Die and Red Dust Road, hit the right notes of being engaging and amusing whilst raising some interesting questions. Tamburlaine Must Die made me want to run off and do some research into Christopher Marlowe (which I resisted from doing). Red Dust Road made me think about the experiences of mixed heritage women in Britain as well as the experience of discovering your biological family.
Breaks are good for your sanity
People who work with computers are advised to take a five minute break every hour. This is to give your eyes a rest and, more important, your brain a break. During the readathon, I tried to take a 10 minute break every hour to move around. I used the bathroom, topped up my water glass, loaded the dishwasher and checked into the readathon conversation on Twitter and on the homepage. As I finished each book, I took five minutes to jot down any thoughts into my notebook for reviews at a later date.
Due to circumstances, I alternated between my living room and Him Indoors's study during the 24 hours. The physical breaks between space really helped my concentration and I did feel more alert when I settled back down to reading.
I've thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the readathon. Many thanks to the organisers and all the hard work they put into making the readathon happen. I had a fabulous time :) Roll on October!