Running and writing

When I was growing up, I hated running and writing with a passion. A short two page essay for my English homework would have me agonizing for hours and would only ever be written at the eleventh hour. Once I hated the idea of writing a homework essay so much that I decided to write a silly story instead, called Fat Vivian. I’ve kept the story complete with the frustrated teacher’s comments because it makes me laugh. Likewise, the thought of having to run 800m or 1500m filled me with dread. At my school there was no such thing as training for sports, either you were good at it or bad at it and that was it. I envied my friend, who had the ability to throw up at very unsuitable occasions. Mostly this is a terrible habit, but it was an excellent tactic for avoiding running around the school field. The sports teacher looked horrified when my friend was actually sick after warning her that she would be, if made to run around the track.

So how did I get to 2011, making my two goals for the year as running and writing? It was only two years ago that I claimed I would never run a marathon because it seemed like a painful, pointless and selfish goal. And now here I am, hoping to run the New York City Marathon in 2012.

I partly blame my job for the writing inspiration. I work as an analyst and have to write about technology trends and provide thought leadership for cold hard cash. I still find it difficult and agonize over getting something written. But as with anything, the more I write, the more confident I become. The web is a also a great source of inspiration; there’s an endless supply of articles and blogs on topics that I love, from people anywhere and everywhere with computer access and an internet connection. Reading blogs, biographies and travel writing inspires me to develop my own thoughts and ideas and finally I’ve found something that I want to write about.

In May 2010 I joined a running club in Brooklyn. I had signed up for the annual JPMorgan Corporate Challenge with work, a 5k race through Central Park, and decided that I needed some practice. My neighborhood has one small park and lots of busy roads and I was trying to find suitable running routes in the area when I stumbled upon the North Brooklyn Runners website. I attended my first ever group run one hot Saturday in May; we ran across the Williamsburg Bridge and then reconnected in a local coffee shop afterwards. I felt great after running and really enjoyed meeting and socializing with like-minded people in my neighborhood so I continued to run with the group even after the 5k challenge was over.

So that’s how it went down and now I’m on my way to becoming a runner and a writer. I received a great book for Christmas, ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’, by Haruki Murakami. I’ve read a few of Murakami’s novels and enjoyed them so was happy to discover his passion for running. It’s a strange book, more like a journal with odd thoughts from his life as a runner and writer. As well as making me want to put on my running shoes, it also made me think about the link between writing and running. Both are solitary and, in my opinion, selfish pursuits. Running is about achieving a personal goal, whether a certain pace or a distance. You set yourself a challenge and only you will be disappointed if you don’t complete it. Whether you run every step of the marathon or finish in less that three hours makes no difference to everybody else, who is merely impressed at such a feat of athleticism. At first what seems impossible gets closer to being achieved and eventually you reach your goal and are ready for a more difficult challenge. For me writing is similar. Blogging is an ego centric way to push your own ideas and ideals to the world. Of course others may read your novel or blog and enjoy it, but the writer gains most satisfaction by completing an article on their topic of choice, becoming a subject expert or receiving praise for originality. And since both writing and running require focus, dedication and thought they are a perfect match.

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