Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that's the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole. I believe many runners would agree.
This morning, I'm running the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville. It's the longest distance I've ever run in my life.
I could not have done this without training for the race ahead of time. In fact, I tried to train for a half marathon several years ago and hurt myself due to lack of proper training and preparation.
During my training, I've done a lot of things wrong, but one thing I've done is stick with it. “All the hard work has been done,” a friend told me. Now, I get to enjoy the fruit of my labor.
Reflecting on my training, I realize there are many parallels between running and writing (and the rest of life):
- There are no mulligans. You can never regain a lost day of training. Once you've squandered a day, it's gone forever. Manage your time wisely. Because once it's gone, it's gone forever.
- Slow and steady really does win the race. Training for a half marathon is more about consistency than a strong, short-lived sprint.
- Perseverance trumps passion. On days when I didn't feel like running, I did it, anyway (and eventually felt better about it).
- Use the right tools. When I tried training two years ago, I didn't bother to buy running shoes and instead tried to train in hiking shoes. Around mile 10 of my training, I severely hurt myself. This time, I made the investment and bought some nice running shoes. They were worth it. (The same is true in writing, but the tools are different.)
- Don't make it too complicated. I don't have any special socks or underwear. I'm not wearing a watch or fanny pack that will give me magical powers. It's just me, my legs, and some Star Wars band-aids. I've learned that the most important equipment to have is me. Everything else is gravy.
- Follow in the footsteps of predecessors. I followed a simple training regimen recommended by a friend, and it kept me on track where I would've otherwise wandered off course.
- Give yourself grace. There were plenty of weeks when I didn't get all my mileage in. I didn't let that stop me from not dwelling on my failures, moving on, and trying again next week.
- Never give up. (This is self-explanatory, but if you need a reason, here are some.)
- Community is essential. While I didn't have a group of runners, I did have a community of people that knew I was running the race, and they held me accountable to meeting my goals.
- Just finish. This may sound noncompetitive, but I have no desire to win the race or run a decent time whatsoever. I just want to finish. I'm such a fickle, noncommittal person that if I actually follow through on this, it will be a success. (Maybe I'll worry more about time my next race, though.)
As I think about these things, I realize that they not only apply to writing and creativity, but to all aspects of life.
What have you learned about life from a discipline like running? Share in the comments.