On the surface, running and writing may seem like opposing activities. Running is a physical activity whereas writing is more of a mental one. But anyone who is a runner will tell you it’s often more of a mental battle than a physical one. Writing and running are more similar than you might realise.
Whether you’ training for a marathon or simply want to complete your first Parkrun, there’s a lot of preparation and thought that goes into it. Running, just like writing, isn’t easy and nobody is ever perfect at it the first time they try. Running is more than just the end results, but instead setting a goal and working months to achieve it.
There are a lot of lessons writers can learn from running. Whether running a 5 km race or an ultramarathon, running is about discipline, practice and determination. So, what are some things writers can learn from their running counterparts?
Practise, practise, practise
One of the things any runner will tell you is that it’s not easy. Running doesn’t exactly come naturally if you’ve never done it before. It requires a lot of training, no matter the distance you choose.
Long-distance runners train for endurance, meaning it’s a lot of time on your feet and feelings of exhaustion. Even sprinters, while they might not be running long distances in one go, will be spending more time training than they ever will be racing.
That’s the thing about running. When you show up on race day, it doesn’t come down to that one day but all of the training sessions in the months leading up to it. It’s a cumulative effort. The same goes for writing. It will be difficult to write a bestselling novel or even just a great blog post in a day. Writing takes time, energy, and endurance. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint.
Learning to enjoy the process and finding joy in practising your craft will help you become a better writer. All of the time and energy writing and editing your work will help lead you to a successful end result. As the saying goes, ‘practice makes perfect’.
Never give up (even if your mind is telling you to)
Just like we’ve said before, running isn’t easy. In fact, it’s quite exhausting and difficult (it makes you wonder why people choose to do it!). While running is a physical activity and of course, you need to be physically fit to complete your goals, every runner will tell you it’s tougher mentally.
When you’re running a race, no matter the distance, there’s always a moment in the race when you want to give up. Your lungs are burning, your legs have never felt heavier, and your mind starts trying to convince you it would just be easier if you stopped. This is where mental toughness comes in. When your body has given up and is in indescribable pain, runners have to dig deep and keep putting one foot in front of the other. It’s not an easy thing to do but it’s necessary for every race.
The same goes for writing. Writing is a difficult task. Often, writers will have to deal with mental blockages, exhaustion or a lack of creativity. This is where it can feel easy to simply give up and give in. But you can’t. You have to keep on trying and working hard to finish whatever you set out to do.
It’s you against you
Yes, when it comes to running everyone has a slight competitive side. When people are running past you, sometimes you can’t help but feel like you’re losing or want to increase your speed to get ahead. But you can’t!
Every race you enter is simply you against you. Whether you have a goal of achieving a certain time or simply just want to finish, nothing matters except your own performance. It’s the only thing you can control and the only thing that should matter.
Everyone is running their own race and so should you.
It’s the same with writing. While it can sometimes be hard to see people around you achieve your goals or get opportunities you want, you have to remember everyone is walking their own path. It’s important to focus on yourself and your own writing capabilities. Nothing else matters.
By focusing on yourself, you can continue to improve. When we compare ourselves to others it can often lead to a lack of motivation and envy. These aren’t positive emotions, and they will have a negative effect on your writing and career path. Always remember, it’s simply you against you.
When you’re in the midst of training, some of the most important run days are your ‘easy runs’. These should be slow, easy on the body and you should be able to hold a conversation easily. Funnily, easy run days can often be the hardest in training. This is because they can feel like you’re not putting enough effort in, or they aren’t doing anything to help.
Easy runs are actually super important. Not only because they help increase mileage without threatening injury, but they also help strengthen your aerobic system (i.e. they help you to get fitter). Like writing, it can be tempting to write for as long as possible as often as possible. But often this will have a negative effect. Either what you write won’t be of a good enough quality or you’ll become so exhausted you start to resent what you’re doing.
Every writer needs to understand how to pace themselves. How you pace yourself will be different for everyone, just like in running. The average runner’s easy run day will look vastly different to Kipchoge (who just ran the marathon world record in 2:01:09). Understand how long you can write before you start getting too tired or the quality of your work begins going downhill.