You’re likely thinking, how can she compare running to writing? They are completely different activities. One is almost entirely physical, the other mostly mental. Yes, at face value it seems like an impossible comparison. But when you break it down, half-marathoning and writing are more similar than different.
I ran my eighth half-marathon this weekend: the Nike Women’s San Francisco. Of all the events I’ve run, this one is my favorite. And no, it’s not just because my medal was a Tiffany’s necklace. The course was beautiful and the girl power that buzzed in the city made this race more memorable than the rest. With achy post-race legs, I’ve been thinking about how my love for writing relates to my love for running half-marathons.
It’s a love/hate relationship. Some days I love running and writing, but at times I wish I had other hobbies. These aren’t easy activities, though they may seem effortless. Most of the time I’m excited to run a half-marathon or to write, but sometimes I want to walk away and never look back. Which leads me to the next similarity.
Both require persistence. You aren’t going to excel at half-marathoning and writing after a couple of hours of practice. Running demands months of training multiple times a week, hours and hours of miles run to condition your muscles and control your breathing. Writing is the same. Even people who are natural writers need to practice, constantly and consistently. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does yield results.
Self-doubt will happen. I can’t speak for all distance runners or all writers, but I know how hard I am on myself. Despite hours of training and practice, I doubt myself at times. On training runs, I might convince myself that I can’t possibly conquer a hill. When I write, I might tell myself I have no talent and that I might as well quit. Both activities are highly mental and self-motivated, and you can easily doubt your own abilities.
Confidence is key. You have to push through any doubt that encroaches on your goal of crossing that finish line or writing that book. There’s a hill ahead of you? You’ve got this if you just keep moving. Worried about your character arc? You’ll get it right if you keep at it. As a runner or a writer, you better believe in yourself and your abilities. The only person weighing you down is you.
You aren’t alone. Though running and writing are solitary activities, there’s a huge sense of community in them, too. When you run a half-marathon, you are literally surrounded by thousands of people working toward the same finish line. The writing community is much the same, though you aren’t physically together most of the time. But attend any writer’s conference and you’ll feel the same sense of we’re in this together and we understand each other. You’ll find the people who get you.
The view is beautiful. Runners and writers see the world, or parts of it, in unique ways. When do you ever get to run down the middle of a street, through a city, along the Golden Gate Bridge, feeling so together with thousands of other people yet so alone and free? As a writer, you see the world through a different lens. You see the significance in small moments and exchanges, find beauty in sad interactions, and empathize with the strangest of strangers. It’s all beautiful.
Yes, half-marathoning and writing seem like apples and oranges. But running and writing, or anything creative for that matter, demand many of the same qualities and challenge you in very similar ways. For me, I know I can run because I can write, and vice versa. Both are exhausting, challenging, and groan-enducing. But most importantly, both are darn rewarding.