Saturday, June 22, 2013

Running is like Writing

You ever want something so bad that you become a Nervous Nellie about it? Or you become a Doubting Thomas, or in my case a Doubting Denise?

That’s me right now!
Does your stomach flip and flop? Do your palms sweat like a girl going out on her first date? Are you constantly asking yourself if you really want it or want to do it? Or maybe you question the sanity of it?

Yes to all of the above.
I had this same experience when I finished my first novel and was trying to find a publisher. You question and doubt yourself. And every time you send off a query you wring your hands as if they were part of the washing machine. But in the end it all worked out. Why? Because I refused to give up. Because I wanted it that bad.

Today and for the next four months, I worry about the Marine Corps Marathon. Not kidding! I want it that bad.
The farthest I have run to date is a half marathon. That’s 13.1 miles. And here I am thinking or wanting to run 26.2 miles. I must be nuts!

As a matter of fact, I think most distance runners have to be a little whacked. I mean seriously, who does that?
This year my one and only goal, well, okay, I have more than one. I have two important goals: Run the Marine Corps Marathon and finish, and finish writing my current novel-in-progress. Both are extremely important to me. I dread that without completing one I won’t complete the other.

Both goals have wormed their way into my heart and mean something very important and special to me. The book because it took a turn almost at the beginning and went in a direction I never expected and I don’t believe it’s coming back. Not that that is a bad thing. It’s just different and exciting and nerve-racking. But, I am determined to sit back and enjoy the ride as my characters drive me to the end.
The Marine Corps marathon is almost more plaguing. Not because I don’t think I can run or even walk 26.2 miles, but because there is a time limit on hitting two points in the race. I have to be at mile 17.5 within four hours and 20 mile marker in 5 hours. On a good day I can run a half marathon in three hours, a bad day in three hours and fifteen minutes. That leaves only 45 minutes to go another 4.5 miles to hit mile 17.5. Ugh!

See! Tell me that did not just scare the bejeezes out of you.
Oh, I have my good days. Those are the days where I finish a race in under an expected time and am ecstatic and I think, “Hey! I’m improving.” The other days the time is not as good as I hoped. It’s still consistent, but not what I want.

I guess it’s the same way in writing. Some days I can sit down and the story just flows and I end up with several thousand words or a couple of chapters. Other days I’m lucky if I can even correct a sentence or remember what color eyes my heroine has. (That’s actually true. I swear they change with my mood.)
Last weekend I ran a 5-mile race in one hour. That’s a minute per mile improvement from last year. Woohoo! Yea me!

Then I question why I can’t keep up that pace. Yeah, I know, practice and train. Practice and train.
I am!

But do you know how unexciting it is to go out and run on the streets for ten miles? Just me, my MP3 player, and hydration belt. It’s kind of like when you read or write a book but have no clue who your characters are so you write about stick figures.
Somehow though, the writer in me is able to picture those characters and bring them to life, make them real with personalities that make you want to learn more about them.

How do I make my running come to life?
So far, the only way I have found is the races. Ahh! All that energy, the music, the announcer, the runners and spectators. It’s like instant rush! How do I bring that to my training runs so it doesn’t feel like such a chore? Oh, to go run three miles is no biggie. I actually enjoy that. It’s short and sweet and kind of like a nice stretch at the end of the day.

Somehow I need to put character into my long runs and fall in love with them just like I do my heroes and heroines. Somehow I need to breathe life into a ten or seventeen mile run.
Writing and running really do have much in common. They both take hard work, dedication, and heart. They both require me to fall in love with something that is challenging, that may be out of my comfort zone and to not fret about the small setbacks or the character deciding to go left when you meant to go right.

With both running and writing I will have Nervous Nellie moments and Doubting Denise skepticism, but it’s the writer in me, the person who knows not to give up that will make me hit that 17.5-mile marker in 4 hours, I say with great hope and a roller coaster in my belly.
Or to quote Buddha: "The mind is everything. What you think, you become."
If that's true then this year I become a marathoner and an author of seven books!


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