When Running is Like Writing

6 Feb

This week, I read an article on running and writing.  And how many similarities they both share.   For example: every mile run brings greater endurance and builds a strong running base, just like every word written (even if not the greatest sentence you’ve ever composed) brings greater ability and builds a stronger writing base.

“The devoted runner puts one foot in front of the other. Success is found not only in medals and trophies but in knowing that you are farther ahead than when you started. Placing in your age group or achieving a personal record is great and worthy of praise, but the most important thing is that you love the run. A published book or short story brings rushes of euphoria, but the true source of joy comes from knowing that your letters have become words that have grown into sentences, paragraphs, pages, and stories.” – Clint Cherepa

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As I’ve pondered my running goals for the year (they include wanting a PR or Personal Record) and my writing goals for the year (I would like to write something for publication), I’ve thought about this quote often.  I do believe that great things should be celebrated, challenging goals should be set, we should always strive to do our best. But I also agree that “the most important thing is that I love the run.”  And that crafting a sentence, even if only for my own enjoyment, is a source of joy.

And let’s be clear – that quote above can be extrapolated to include whatever you are passionate about.  If you like painting, not every painting has to be a masterpiece you are proud of. But you should enjoy every stroke of the paintbrush on your way to discovering something new.

I’ve thought about this a lot this week.  During the Super Bowl, I managed 2 pull-ups on a friend’s pull-up bar (exciting stuff!).  My initial thought was “I can’t do nearly as many as the guys” but I quickly changed my tune to “the  most important thing is that I tried and I’ve gone from being able to do 0 to doing 2.”  Sometimes my workouts aren’t particularly gripping, my work day is particularly painful and frustrating, my long list of errands is boring. And then I remind myself that I am farther ahead than when I started. Sure, I couldn’t lift as heavy a weight as I wanted to or all of my test cases failed and I don’t really feel like going to the grocery store. But, I’m farther along than when I started and that has to count for something.

I swim slow, but I swim. I can’t make pancakes but I make really amazing cookies. I don’t own a wonderful house but my apartment is always clean, cozy, and clutter-free.  I’m not always happy with the way my body chooses to distribute fat and muscle but I am healthy. Sometimes I upset my friends and have to apologize but they remain my friends, I learn how to better love and communicate and encourage, and I am still further ahead than when they were not my friends.

Often, we find ourselves falling into the great void of comparison. Not only is it a bad place to be but its also not even an accurate place to be. If I come in last in a race, should I compare myself with only those who finished in front of me? Or should I compare myself with those who did not race?  Maybe the safest path is to just compare myself with me – where was I 5 years ago? Was I capable of running this? If I hadn’t run this race, would I have done something equally productive and enjoyable instead? What did I learn from this race that will help me next time?

The same with writing. And fashion. And work style. And personal choice of how you spend your free time. Life is greater than condemnation, greater than pointing fingers, greater than every effort having to be better than the last.  Life includes up and downs, dips and peaks and as long as you enjoy the run, does anything else really matter?

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