I’m going to start this post by bragging just a bit, but bear with me. I promise there will be a writing metaphor (or two) in here somewhere.
My husband, Trevor, is a marathon runner, and over the course of his involvement in this very intense sport, he’s faced some huge challenges. He’s conquered Heartbreak Hill at the Boston Marathon, run in pouring rain and gusting prairie winds, come back from an injury to his Achilles tendon, and endured more blisters than he can count.
Yesterday, he faced a new challenge: running while sick. After training for months in anticipation of our annual provincial marathon, he developed a cold two days before his big run. Now while a cold doesn’t sound like a huge deal, consider running 42.2km (26.2 miles) while battling congestion, a sore throat, and fatigue. Distance running is a difficult feat when you’re in the best of health, let alone when you’re bogged down by sickness, so the night before the race, he made the tough decision not to run the full marathon. Instead, he opted to run with our son who was registered for the 10k race. He figured that would be as much as he could handle while feeling so under the weather.
We got up at 5:30 in the morning after Trevor spent the night tossing and turning and breathing much like Darth Vader. Needless to say, he looked like death warmed over. When we got to the exhibition grounds where the start of the race course was situated, the guys began preparing for the 10k. The music was pumping, his fellow runners were already gathering at the start line, and that familiar feeling of excitement that precedes every race was in the air. That’s when “the look” crossed Trevor’s face. I’ve seen it before. It’s the look that says “Oh man, do I ever wish I could run today, because I’d love nothing more than to put my body through forty-two kilometres of complete hell.” I know my husband well and understand this is what he lives for, and so I asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to try running the full marathon?” He hummed and hawed a bit, took a couple easy laps around the parking lot, and decided he would give it a shot even though he was sick. If he couldn’t finish, or managed to finish in a much longer amount of time than usual, at least he tried.
He took off from the start line, all tired and sniffling and doing the very thing he’d decided against. When it comes to running, I’ve learned not to underestimate my husband. I had a sneaking suspicion he’d push himself hard enough to finish. That being said, I was more than a little surprised to see him coming up the home stretch less than three hours later and in fourth place! My throat is still kind of sore from all the screaming I did. Yes, I know. I probably caught his cold, but I’d prefer to think it’s purely from my wifely cheering skills. His official time was two hours and fifty-four minutes--another sub-3 marathon, his fourteenth full marathon overall, and the highest he’s ever placed. And to think he set out this morning planning not to run in his event!
My son also did an awesome job. While he's run 10k races before, this was the first one he’d ever run on his own--a big milestone for him--and he finished in 56 minutes. That's a great time for a kid his age, especially seeing as he was competing mostly with adults. I love watching his hard work pay off and his enthusiasm is infectious. Like father, like son!
So I promised that I’d bring this all around to writing. Here goes…
While running and writing are, on the surface, very different activities, many of the underlying principles are similar. Each requires discipline and hours of regular practice in order to improve. Learning the biomechanics of running and practicing form is comparable to how writers learn about and refine their craft. “Hitting the wall” is an issue runners face when they feel completely drained. This is as much mental as physical and can be compared to writer’s block. Whether you’re running or writing, there are times when finishing feels grueling and impossible and you just have to push through the pain. The running and writing communities are both places that have an overwhelmingly positive outlook and are full of support and camaraderie. And perhaps the biggest similarity of all: runners and writers both understand that drive to meet a personal goal and the importance of having passion for what you’re doing.
I’m proud of my husband’s running accomplishments and admire his dedication to his sport. He’s inspiring and supportive, and he gets that writing a book is my marathon. I’m so thankful that while our pursuits may be different, at the heart of it, we understand each other’s ambitions.