Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Is Writing Like Running A Marathon?

I read an email this morning from a member of my writers’ group that said, “Writing is more of a marathon than a sprint.”

In response to that, another member said, “Definitely a marathon! Sometimes feels like we run marathons back-to-back, day-after-day.”

From someone who is training to run a marathon let me tell you, I could not, would not, run a marathon back to back, even a half marathon. It’s something you’re proud of doing, but your body knows it’s physically incapable of doing it again without sufficiently recovering. I have yet to hit the wall while writing. Frustrated, yes. Tired, yes. But never have I been so exhausted that I couldn’t type another word, but I have been so exhausted I couldn’t take another step.

Running and writing, however, are so much alike.

Running marathons and writing books are only accomplished by a small minority. Hundreds of thousands of people talk about doing one or the other, but only a few actually do. It’s a matter of focus, commitment, passion. Who wants to get up in the morning and run 5, 10, 15, 20 miles on a cold January day or a hot summer one? Who wants to sit at the computer and pound out page after page of words and thoughts that have to be revised and critiqued not once, but a half dozen times, or more! 

Crazy people? Maybe. We do spend a lot of time listening to internal voices.

But writers and marathon runners are committed to doing the work day in and day out even when the muse wants to take a holiday or a hamstring aches. Runners get up and lace their shoes. Writers pour a cup of coffee and put their butts in their chairs. They write because that’s what they do. Runners run because they can’t NOT run. Their feet itch to hit the pavement. Writers’ minds are racing up and down dark alleyways looking for fresh ideas to move their stories forward.    

Good runners like good writers are humble. They listen to advice and change what isn’t working. They are committed to the process and seeing their hard work come to fruition. They know that only through training, or writing and rewriting, will they ever reach the level to which they aspire, and along the way, honor the gift they’ve been given.

 Is writing like running a marathon? Ask me again on September 15 after I run the Air Force Marathon, but I can tell you, writing is like training to run a marathon. It’s not easy. Matter of fact, sometimes it’s downright painful. Then why do I do it? Because I can’t NOT do it.

I’ve read that running a marathon requires one part athletic ability, one part self-discipline, and four parts perseverance. A marathon is like running two races—the first 20 miles and the last 6.2. Getting that first draft of your novel written is like that first 20 miles. Editing until it shines is the last 6.2 and where the real race begins—the uncharted territory—a time when success or failure will depend not only on your physical abilities but on your mind, too.

Although I don’t yet know the feeling of crossing the finish line after running a full marathon, I do know the feeling of holding my book in my hands. I do remember the sweat, the long hours, the gnashing of teeth, the dozens of drafts. I know that although I wanted to, I didn’t quit. I had friends on the sidelines cheering me on, ringing cowbells, and screaming, “You can do this.”

Four parts perseverance? Hell yes!  

Keep writing and keep running, and never give up on your dream, Kathy


Kallypso Masters said...

Amen to that! I like that--it's like TRAINING to run a marathon. Even that is daunting to most, just as many, many people will start a novel. Only a small percentage of those actually will finish the thing. I was one who could not finish one for the life of me in the 90s. Took a decade off and came back and now I can write a 140,000-word one in two months. (Then it can be like my current one and take five months of writing to still not finish.) Not sure if my brain was in training all those empty years, but I imagine the feeling of reaching "The End" of a novel OR a marathon is pretty exhilarating.

And you're going to do both, Kathy!

All the best!


Laura Hodges Poole said...

I don't have the running talent you do, Kathy, but I can certainly relate to the writing part! Writing the first draft is the easy part. It's everything that comes after that makes you scream for the finish line. Great post!

Taryn Raye said...

Great post, Kathy. Though I don't know anything about running a marathon, I do agree that it takes lots of training, determination and perseverance to accomplish both.

You can do it!

Teresa Reasor said...

I totally agree. But when the finish lines in sight I know how a marathon runner must feel. Because I always get that extra boost of energy that has me writing as fast as I can, the words coming to the point that I can barely get them down on paper fast enough. It has to be adrenaline. And once we cross the finish line that euphoria and relief is unbelievable. So, I can definitely identify with a runner.
I loved the blog!!
Teresa R.

Unknown said...

Kally, Laura, Taryn - thank you for stopping by today. As writers y'all know how if feels to get to the end of a book - relief and a sense of accomplishment. And as writers, you know how difficult the journey really is. There is no way to make it easy, but it's so worth it in the end.

Unknown said...

Teresa, your comment about writing so fast you can hardly get the words down on paper reminds me of those moments when I truly experience a runner's high. My feet get to moving so fast I feel like I can fly. Like you, sometimes I have the same experience while writing. My fingers move too fast, and I often find that they were on the wrong keys and all I have is a jumble of words! Sometimes I run so fast I almost trip over my own feet. I guess the take-away here, at least for me, is don't write or run fast!

Karen S. Elliott said...

Great article. I love blogs that compare writing to other strenuous activities! It is a marathon, writing. Even if you write just a few hundred yards of text - or a few miles of text - you must work at it every day. The ultimate finish line is "published."

rcharbon said...

I've got a new book coming out in March. The first sentence is, "I'm not the first person to say, "Writing a book is like running a marathon"."

Overthinking the Marathon is like having me as your partner for a season of training, 17 weeks that culminate in the 2012 Cape Cod Marathon. Some days I talk about the nitty-gritty details, other days, it's about the things that make running interesting and fun, even – no, especially – when it hurts.

Amby Burfoot, 1968 Boston Marathon winner and Runner's World editor-at-large, says, "Ray Charbonneau insists he hasn't written a marathon guide, and he's right. Instead, he's loaning himself out as a thoughtful, veteran, and funny training partner. You couldn't find a better one as you get ready for your next 26.2-miler."

If you're interested in reading Overthinking the Marathon in order to post something on your blog, do a review, or host an interview, please let me know and I'll send you a digital edition, Kindle, epub (for iBooks, Nook, etc...), or PDF - just let me know what format works for you.

The "official" release date is March 1st, in case you want to coordinate any activity with the publication of the book.

I hope we can work together on this one. I'm an independent publisher, and I need all the assistance I can get to get the word out.

Thanks for your help,
Ray Charbonneau
Arlington, MA
Book info and more: