What Writing and Running Have in Common

Rachel Toor in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Photo_51947_wide_largeWhen people ask me what running and writing have in common, I tend to look at the ground and say it might have something to do with discipline: You do both of those things when you don’t feel like it, and make them part of your regular routine. You know some days will be harder than others, and on some you won’t hit your mark and will want to quit. But you don’t. You force yourself into a practice, the practice becomes habit and then simply part of your identity. A surprising amount of success, as Woody Allen once said, comes from just showing up.Or perhaps I’ll mutter something about sought-after outcomes: You want to nail it; you want, if nothing else, to beat yourself, to beat your best self. You want something to show for the effort. You want the applause that comes when you’ve finished, and finished well. You want the markers of achievement—you’d like to think you are just doing it for you, but most of us are not that self-realized. The material rewards mean something.

When I think harder about it, what I believe running and writing have most in common, at least for me, is the state of vulnerability they leave you in. Both require bravery, audacity, a belief in one’s own abilities, and a willingness to live the clichés: to put it on the line, to dig deep, to go for it. You have to believe in the “it,” and have to believe, too, that you are worthy. That is hard because the results always seem impossible. At the beginning of every track practice, when the coach gives us a workout, I think: I can’t do that. No one could ever do that. When I line up at the start of a marathon, I imagine driving from Hopkinton to Boston or from Staten Island to Central Park and I tell myself that’s too far to run. At longer races, when I know the unimaginable elevation of the peaks I’ll have to climb and descend in 30 or 50 miles of tough trail, I wonder what’s wrong with me to believe I could do something so challenging. It’s too hard, I think. I can’t do that.

Which is exactly how I feel when I’m starting on a book project.

More here.