Over a week’s vacation from Day Job recently, I had one of my hardest running weeks, probably ever, as I’m training for a trail marathon. In case you didn’t know, trail marathons are just like regular road marathons except muddier, buggier, longer, and nastier than their refined road-based counterparts (which are also no cake walk). During that same week off, I had one of my toughest writing/editing weeks in a very long time. Given that one of the training runs was over four hours long, I had time to think. A lot of time. Too much time.
Seems that marathon training and writing aren’t that much different, after all.
Before I leap into the analogy, I need to make myself crystal clear on both topics. Full disclosure. I am in no way a great athlete. This chunky bod is getting dragged 26.2 miles (hopefully) because, well, the challenge is there. I’ve wanted to do a trail marathon for >15 years. Now is my chance, and you bet your left bunion, I’m downing the biggest bag of Cheetos + a Blizzard after I finish/collapse/die as I cross the finish line in dead last place. Also, I will not be setting any land-speed records. In many respects, that’s like my writing career. I’m not a bestselling anything. The writing happens because I need to/want to/enjoy it and I want to always improve. You can bet that writing consumes a huge amount of time and it’s exhausting. Also, Cheetos.
(FYI, this is not me. I don’t look this fresh at mile 0.1, much less mile 20+. This is Rory Bosio, and she is one of the badass-est trail runners around.)
But on mile #18 of last weekend’s long run, as my feet and cankles were aching and I would have gladly given my right arm for a bag of hot, steamy, salted tater tots and a blizzard treat, I had an epiphany. And no, the epiphany wasn’t to stop running, although no question that concept was tempting.
The epiphany was to keep going, no matter what. Sure, it hurt. Sure, I’m never going to win any prize at running. But there’s something to be said for doing an activity that most folks can’t. There’s also something to be said for mentally envisioning the finish line which takes months to work up to the point where it can be reached…and finally reach it.
So, yes, a lot like writing. You see, during the same week where I had that very tough training schedule, I also (barely) met my writing goals for that time period: #1) Complete a draft of the third book in a brand new project I started and #2) Re-edit (read: “gut”) two entire books in another project I’m working on. To say I returned to work Monday as a way to recover from my week “off” would be a gross understatement.
(Also not me. This woman looks way more alert than I do after writing all week long.)
But that’s writing for the average person, isn’t it? I’m not talking the bestselling authors who are full-time writers, and, god bless them, can focus their lives wholly on that career. That’s awesome, and many writers only dream of getting to that point. No. I’m talking about those of us who carve out the writing time from taking care of family/kids, jobs/work, life changes, moving, illness, and everything else that goes on in our lives. I’m talking about the folks who get up two hours before the rest of the family so they can write. The folks who stay up two hours late to write, or fit editing in while kiddo is at cheerleading or soccer practice or whatnot.
Why do we continue the middle-of-the-pack slog? (Back-of-the-pack in the case of yours truly.) I think it’s for a few key reasons that relate to both writing and distance running. Indulge me if you will as I relate the two:
#1) We keep writing day in and day out because we have to. Anything less and our noggins will explode. I’ve hit the point where I need to run most days. Need to. (Mostly to burn off the tater tots, TBH.)
#2) We keep writing because it’s exciting to work for so long to create an entire world and then share it for others to enjoy. It’s exciting to complete this seven month running odyssey.
#3) We keep writing because not everyone can write a book, and not everyone can write a book while maintaining a normal life. Not everyone can run a marathon on narrow trails, either.
#4) We keep writing/running because maybe, just maybe, we’ll break out of middle-of-the-pack and have one great book/race one day. You never know.
#5) We write because of the challenge. Same with running.
#6) We write because of the community of supportive people who also write. Same with the trail running community. (Supporters will equally high five the first place and last place runners.)
So, will I complete the 26.2 miles later this month? Remains to be seen, but in my mind, of course I’ll finish it. Might not run the whole thing, might have to rest and snack a few times, might not be pretty, but you bet I’ll get the job done.
What about those writing projects? Sure, they’ll get completed. Might take time, but this writer will slog through, word by word, just like all of my author colleagues in the trenches who put one word down after another, one foot down after another, day in and day out.
(Want some inspiration? This is David Goggins. Also not a runner (in the beginning). He simply finishes runs. When I feel lazy, I pull up one of his podcasts/interviews, and then I don't have any excuses to feel lazy.
Author, daydreamer, and practitioner of trying very hard to duct tape folks together and help when I can.