Monday, 27 May 2013

Running and Writing Marathons

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.


14 comments:

  1. I am impressed! Even when I run while healthy I can barely stand it...

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    1. Yeah, I tend to leave the running to my boys. Every once in a while I make another attempt at running and always end up concluding that I'm better suited to walking. :)

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  2. Wow, congrats to your husband and son! I am vewry impressed! And I like the way you brought it back around to writing--maybe that's why it seems like so many of my writing friends are also big runners.

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    1. I'll pass along your congratulations to them! I've noticed that a number of my writer friends are runners as well. I can see why considering how much time writers spend sitting on their duffs to work. Running is a great way to offset all that sitting time and maintain a healthy balance. Now, if only I had the motivation to follow their example!

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  3. You already know how I feel about this: basically the two of them make us look like lazy schlubs. Congrats to both of them for doing so well! As for 'hitting the wall', I think that's approximately where I'm at right now with my writing. :/ Even so, I'm pushing through it and hoping it eases up a bit.

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    1. I should just start rollerblading beside them when they run, because that's probably the only way I'd ever be able to keep up. Oh, and Holly would have to pull me too. I wish the Red Deer marathon wasn't the week before ours, otherwise we'd come visit you guys, and Trev could run there. Two weeks in a row would be a little much even for him I'm thinking. Well, as the official marathon cheerleader in the family, I'm also cheering you on with your writing. Keep at it and I'm sure you'll bust through that wall soon! :)

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  4. That's so awesome. You deserve a brag for this, the metaphor was just a bonus :)

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    1. I was just so proud of both of them, I had to post about it! My husband and I have discussed many times how our running and writing goals are similar and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to share those thoughts.

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  5. Wow, something like this definitely deserves bragging rights. A sub-3 marathon is fantastic for a healthy person, but to do it while sick is doubly-so. That's neat that your son is running, too; a 9 min/mi is a good pace, even for adults!
    It's great to be reminded of that just-go-for-it mentality, too, though. I find that I need that mindset a lot while writing, especially since I tend to be a pantser. Rediscovering that is usually the final kick I need to get started.

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    1. Aha, you clearly know a thing or two about running! I caught my husband's cold and I feel miserable right now, so I'm not even sure how he managed to get through a full marathon, let alone in under three hours! I'm not a runner myself, but whenever I go to a marathon I find myself totally inspired by the running culture. They're such an enthusiastic bunch, and it makes me feel motivated about everything! Like you said, it's awesome to be reminded of that "just-go-for-it mentality."

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  6. Wow, congrats to him for finishing and doing so well while sick! :)

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    1. I'll be sure to pass on your congratulations to him! :)

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  7. You are so, so, right on how similar running and writing really are. Back in college, I ran the Honolulu marathon...but sadly, "hit the wall" and had to stop at mile 24. I know, only 2.2 miles short of the finish line, but I completely collapsed (it was one of the hottest days on record for the marathon and I was overwhelmed with heat exhaustion, even though I'd trained in the Hawaiian sun for over a year.) and couldn't take one more step.

    Regardless, running a marathon AND FINISHING is on my bucket list and one of these days, I'll get there. Granted, there's a slight possibility I may become a published author before that day actually comes, but you never know. :) Both would be awesome.

    Your husband and son's accomplishments during this race are nothing short of amazing. To have a cold, not feel well, and still get out there and run - not to mention finish fourth AND UNDER THREE HOURS, is insane. And your son's 56 minute 10k? Awesome. Just awesome. They both have much to be proud of!

    As do you! Writing is no easy feat and the things we deal with on a daily basis aren't everyday occurrences for most people. But we do it because we're motivated to push forward. And while some don't understand any of this process at all (if I have ONE more non-writer friend ask why it's taking me SO long to get on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, I'm going to scream), we understand it...and that's all that matters.

    Keep at it and keep cheering on your family, too. Such a great support circle you have - that's awesome!

    Feel better soon, Erin!

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    1. Oh, wow. Two miles from the finish? That would've been tough to swallow although I can't imagine even coming close to running that far. Now that would be a challenge for Trevor--running in extreme heat. As pasty redheads none of us handle high temperatures very well.

      Finishing my first manuscript was my marathon, and I hope to "run" many more of them. My boys are great at cheering me on, so I have to give them lots of credit for that too. I'm rooting for you to run that marathon and get published! Someday, I'm sure both will happen! :)

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