Writing the Race (or Running for the Writer)
Running has been an activity I kinda fell into. Several years ago, I’d been working out at the gym trying to stay in shape. Every April there’s a local race called the River to River Relay Race that I’d been wanting to try but never had the courage to do. My assistant at the time knew I’d thought about it and she convinced me that with a little extra work running (especially hills) then I’d be in perfect shape to give it a try. I worked hard and by the time the race came, I was excited and ready. It was a fun time and I was hooked.
Before then, I’d never run. Ever. I was a skateboarder growing up, but I’d never gone for a jog or any other running. The River to River Relay is like doing three 5K races in one day. On hills. Ask anyone who’s done it and they will always talk about hills. It’s not for the feint of heart. And that was my first race ever.
After conquering that race, I ran regularly and entered several 5K races. The best I placed was second in my age group, but that was more by default than anything else. There were only four or five in my age group at that race. But it was a win. I felt like I belonged.
I’ve been running part-time since then and it’s a great way for me to stay in shape. I enjoy the mental clarity I gain while running. My mind will clear itself of all extraneous thoughts and creativity flourishes. Some of my best ideas came while running. It gives me a chance to sort through my thoughts and form them into something coherent. I’ve been able to figure out plot points and story twists all while climbing up hills and running along roads.
I didn’t start with the hills and I didn’t one day wake up and claim to be a runner. “Hello day! It is I, runner Jason!” No, instead it took a lot of practice. I couldn’t run a 5K without training shorter distances. I had to get my breathing under control and recognize the limits of my body while training.
I’m sure I’m not the first one to make the connection, but the steps it takes to be successful as a runner are the same as writing.
It’s not like all of a sudden I claimed the title of “Writer” either. I had to work up to it. I wrote. I failed. I had to see what training steps I needed to succeed. I worked on my craft. I couldn’t just start writing a novel without some concepts and artistry to fall back on.
I tried NaNoWriMo four years ago and failed. I didn’t know what I was getting into. I had no idea what it took to write a 50,000 word creative piece. I’d written a 75 page thesis for my Master’s degree, but that was a different kind of writing.
After failing that year, I read more. I searched for sources to help me collect my thoughts and write a long piece of fiction that had plot, theme, and characters well thought out and researched. That year, I was able to come back and win NaNo and the confidence it gave me has sustained me to this day.
I’m not published anywhere other than this blog. I’ve written over twenty flash fiction/short stories and have three NaNo novels under my belt.
Just like my first real race and the momentum I gained, winning that year in NaNo was crucial to building my confidence.
I still read, I still seek ways to improve in both running and writing, and one day I hope to be better than what I am now at both things.
Running and writing both take a tremendous amount of patience, dedication, and practice. You can never have enough of any of those three if you are going to succeed. Sometimes I want to give it all up, the running and writing, but then I realize I enjoy both too much to stop. I gain so much from both that it would do me no good to give up. I have to push on. I have to endure. I have to work harder to be better. One day it will all pay off.