Thursday, October 3, 2013

Things I Learned About Writing By Training for a Marathon

My running medals Christmas Tree
I became a distance runner in 2010, relatively late in my life, as I was turning thirty-seven stupid. I had never been interested in running before that time, but somehow found myself sucked into the sport. I think it was mostly because running gave me a chance to be alone – a rare commodity for a mom who was homeschooling four young children at the time.

I definitely list distance running as one of the contributing factors to me becoming a published author. Running gave all those little voices and stories in my head the chance to really be heard.

Because, believe me, you will think about just about anything to take your mind off the physical agony that comes during a 15- or 20-mile run.  Including plotting an entire novel. 

Since 2010, I’ve run two marathons, a dozen or so half-marathons, and seven Ragnar Relays (200-miles, split between 12 people over 2 days -- read about those here). I even have this beautiful Christmas tree with some of my running medals.

Our Ultra team this weekend: Fast Girls Have Good Times. Read about us here.
But I have gone beyond stupid in what I’m doing this weekend: A Ragnar Relay Ultra. So instead of splitting 200 miles between 12 of us, we’re splitting the 200 miles between only SIX of us. So I’ll be running 30+ miles over 24 hours – the most miles I’ve ever run in one 24 hour period.

Last week as I trudged through more long runs in preparation for the race, worried that I should be at home writing instead of out there running, I came up with this: 

Top 5.5 Things I’ve Learned About Writing By Training for a Marathon

Running lesson #5: The runs you did yesterday and last week were great. Congratulations. But now they’re over and all that really matters is the run you’re doing today. Writing lesson: Same is true. You wrote a book? Congrats! But what are you working on now? I can’t rest on my laurels.

Running lesson #4: Non-running people will ask you about your marathon training, but they really don’t want to hear about it. Trust me on this: tell a non-runner you ran 2 miles this morning and they think you’re a rock star. Tell them you ran 12 miles this morning and they think you’re psychotic.  Writing lesson: People (even other writers) will ask you about your novel, but don’t really want to know more than two sentences. Have those sentences ready, then move on. You’re not the droids they’re looking for.

Running lesson #3: Do something you thought was impossible.  Last January I decided I was going to try to out-run a friend during a marathon in which we were both racing. Yeah sure, he was younger, stronger and faster than me, but he was recovering from an injury so I thought I might have a chance. I won’t keep you in suspense: I didn’t beat him. BUT, for the first time ever I ran a half-marathon length in under 2 hours. This was a HUGE accomplishment for me; a feat I had deemed impossible and had refused to even try. But it wasn’t impossible, I just needed proper motivation to leave every little bit of myself out there on the course. Writing lesson: What am I not trying to do because I’m calling it “impossible”? Time to stop being scared and Do. It.  Find the motivation to leave every bit of myself out there, not spend effort preparing excuses in case I fail.

The .5 Running lesson: Consider this a bonus. After long runs, you will have chafing in places you never dreamed was possible. It will make you cry. You will curse your mother for ever having given birth to you. Writing lesson: Um…yeah, no real lesson here. That’s why most writers aren’t distance runners. Heck, that’s why most everybody in the world isn’t a distance runner. 

Running lesson #2: All forward motion is progress, even if it’s slow. Slow is better than not moving at all.Writing lesson: All forward motion is progress.  Write 50 words, that’s a paragraph. Write 250 words, that’s a page. Write 300 pages, that’s a manuscript. Write every day.

Running lesson #1: Distance running going to hurt. Accept that. When you push yourself, it hurts. Writing lesson: You’re going to want to quit. Don’t. To borrow from A League of Their Own: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”  Embrace the hard. Or at least learn to live with it.

Perhaps I’ll glean even more wisdom about writing as I run my 30+ miles this weekend.  I’ll definitely glean some about chafing.

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