It seems like a lot of my writer friends are also runners, which is a good thing. I have run since the age of thirteen and it changed my life. This remains the seminal experience of my teenage years, whether the fall cross-country meets, sizzling spring track workouts, or the fun-runs in between (which are usually anything but). I had come to a very awkward and unhappy point in my life at thirteen, if not running I am sure I would have chosen Hare Krishna. Running, especially long distance running, offered the sort of discipline (and devotion) that I needed.
Of course, all to say I am pretty interested by the intersections between my two passions. I read a great blog entry from Literature Is Not Dead the other day via my friend Kristan Hoffman’s blog: “Running through Writing’s Solar System” which laid out the parallels between the two things. To paraphrase: Running takes practice, so does writing. Those who hit the pavement more often are the ones likely to succeed, just as the writers who lock themselves in rooms are the ones who earn the most money.
I would add a couple of layers. One, quantity of writing never equals quality. If that were the case, the phonebook would be a classic of world literature. It’s the stories and language that counts. Nor should writing ever be a race. Sometimes it’s almost the reverse: the more time you spend with your novel, the more nuances you can add, the more you can toy around with the sentences, and the more time you have to make it perfect. What world class runner could get away with admiring the rocks in Central Park during the New York City Marathon?
That said, writing is like running because cross training is definitely key. Just as you have to hit the gym every week in track, you have to be prepared to read, research, and revise outside of your writing time. Consider it the literary equivalent of bicep reps. You don’t use your arms to run, but they sure come in handy during the last few yards of a race as you pump your way to a PR.
Anyway, these are just thoughts—mainly for discussion’s sake. I would love to hear from runners, writers, and runner-writers in the comments about what they think. Is running like writing—or not?
Also, for those die-hards, check out The Runner’s Literary Companion still one of my favorites. It even includes an incredible short story from a Hardy Boys ghostwriter that has stuck with me to this day: “John Sobieski Runs.” And one of my favorite authors ever, Toni Cade Bambara has a short piece “Raymond’s Run” which must have been the first short story I ever fell in love with. Definitely worth a read!