I am not a ‘real’ runner. Never have been. I’m too short, no stride. Quick but not fast. So for many years, until I gave up competitive sports in college, running was nothing but a form of torture, a training mechanism to push physical limits and get better at the sports I cared about.
Of course the ‘torture’ mentality ingrained a strong dislike for running in my brain. I spent a lot of years after sports exploring every type of physical activity available to exercise the human body defined simply as not running.
During the ‘not running’ years, though, I couldn’t help but notice a lot of people seemed to enjoy running. At first I wrote them off as crazy liars, like all the people who claim to like sushi when I know this can’t possibly be true, but I’d hear about their races, witness their pride and progress and eventually, I started to believe it was possible for some to actually like running.
Maybe even to love it.
Around this same time I started work on my first novel, which seemed even more daunting than running and I thought, what the heck?
So I started my book and decided to take another look at running, this time in a different context, with no stop watches, screaming coaches or blaring expectations attached. I put a half marathon on my bucket list, mostly to prove I could do it, if I wanted (even though at the time I didn’t really want to).
Obviously I don’t know which deep psychological issue made me go back to running, but since then I’ve completed a couple half marathons and I might run another. I’m not sure. The point is I don’t hate running anymore. I actually kind of like it.
Or at the very least I’m a little addicted to it because it teaches me things. A lot of things about myself and writing and life in general.
Like the beauty of the first step, the ENORMOUS victory that is
And the freedom that comes with being willing to fail, the danger of unrealistic expectations, the absolute necessity of well-planned goals, the value of understanding your priorities, the importance of celebrating even the smallest victories.
Patience (changing ourselves, physically or mentally, is a slow, usually painful process).
Faith (if you keep working, you will get better).
Perspective (how far you can see depends on what you’re looking at).
And in the end, the most valuable, realizing that almost all the limits we put on ourselves are illusions.
Some days, in the throes of a hard run when the finish is too far off and the fatigue is mounting I get to where I can literally only think about the very next step. One more step. Then the next. Then the next. And no matter what I can’t look up and see just how far away the finish really is because I don’t have the strength at that moment.
Sometimes that’s how it is with writing. The right word is just too far off, across an-uncrossable canyon of inexperience, doubt and talent-less-ness. And even if I make it over this one, on some whim of fortune, the finish is still nowhere in sight.
It’s so easy to doubt, to think I’ll never make it, that I’m a fool for even trying, that things would be easier if I just settled back into my safe, steady pay check corporate job and spent my free time honing my housekeeping skills.
But I want to write and finishing that stupid half marathon proved I can do things even when my inner-doubter says I can’t or shouldn’t or whatever, so I fall back on possibility instead of doubt. I think about my goals and priorities and my latest victory if there is one. If there isn’t, I remind myself it takes time to learn and grow and that if I keep working, really working, I’ll get better.
Another benefit to running is the lack of oxygen simplifies thoughts in the extreme so instead of all that, when it’s tough going in writing or running or otherwise, I remind myself just to breathe, focus and work.
Breathe. Fuel the body, calm the mind. The one and only thing we have to keep doing.
Focus effort and energy. For me this about understanding priorities and goals, both immediate and long-term and how they tie together. Sometimes we only have enough energy to focus on the immediate. Other times we can look at the wide, bright and uncertain future without breaking a sweat. Not understanding the link between the two makes it almost impossible to keep going when things get really tough.
Work. Day in and day out, show up and put the work in. Some days will hurt. A lot. But some days you’ll blow yourself away with what you can do.
So, I’ll keep working at both running and writing.
I’ll remind myself to plan and be patient, that an inexperienced, untrained person isn’t going to up and run a marathon one day. Just like an inexperienced, untrained writer isn’t going to sit down and whip out a classic novel.
Our interests and natural abilities will point the way, maybe get us started, but it’s the day in and day out commitment that will ultimately make us successful, at running, writing or anything for that matter.
Image Credit: She Runs and Shine https://flic.kr/p/bsqD14 by Jacson Querubin license link https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/