Yesterday I reached a personal PR as a writer. It's always a good day when you make thousands of people laugh, then cry. Non-writers people would call that emotional manipulation. (Mwaaaaahahahha.)
In total, more than 15,000 people visited the blog and read Ten Things I Learned from Running a Marathon. That's like a whole marathon full of people! The response was enough to fill my heart for the rest of the year. It sealed the deal: I chose the right sport and the right community. Runners are soulful, open, resilient, and wickedly kind.
I was one of the people crying, especially when I saw comments like Jon M's and Dan Nightingale's, and so many others with stories about loss, injury, and overcoming challenge. I realized: Running has been hard, at times, for me, but I haven't hit a wall yet. I haven't had to climb Mount Everest through a devastating injury. Nothing has halted my running completely. I pray that I don't hit a wall, but if I do, be it by injury or illness or overtraining or under-thinking, I'm going to remember all of your comments and experiences and I'm going to tell myself I can get through it. Because you did.
It was all I could do yesterday not to shirk my work duties and pour through the comments on the blog and on Facebook. They were just too good.... runners motivated to recover from injuries, runners ready to register for a marathon again after a long break, and so many running their first half or full in the coming weeks who found it in themselves to share their story, anxiety, and excitement.
You guys: This is one mad world full of beautiful people filled with the propensity to love and lift one another.
One of my favorite books is Haruki Murakami's What I Talk about when I Talk about Running. I read Murakami a lot as a graduate student and always loved his enigmatic novels and quirky short stories. But his memoir was like diving into ice water. It was a dose of abundant sense-making and instant clarity. One thing I remember Murakami saying is, "Most of what I know about writing I've learned through running every day."
I feel this way too. I've been writing since mid-college, which was about nine years ago, but I guess I would say that writing really started to make sense when I began to run. A lot of things are beginning to make more sense, the more I run. I don't know if it's the consistency or fluidity of running every day that teaches you to get started, even if you're not feeling it, and let the flow come. Or maybe it's the way the mind releases on the run and allows things to flow in. Maybe it's the way running helps me stop analyzing and start feeling. And, a lot of it is how deeply connected I feel to the people around me. This wasn't always true, pre-running.
Writing, to me, isn't about talent or calculations or knowing more stuff than other people. It's about receiving things that are already in the world and being able to fly to the computer fast enough before you lose them. It's about openness. When I taught English at FAU, sometimes students (who I lovingly called customers, at times) would write things that would make me sob. They were mostly 18 to 21, some lost, some not. Some A-students, some failing out. But self-expression doesn't get capped at a minimum GPA. We are all full of so much experience, sorrow, joy, and perspective. Writing is about finding it.
Running is also helping me learn about failures. Hal Higdon's Marathon page posted a great note yesterday about learning to fail. Hal is right -- we have to accept that failure will happen amongst triumphs. Failure is an event. It is not a characteristic. You cannot be a failure. You can only experience it. I've failed many times as a writer, as a runner, as a sister, a friend, and a human. But each successful moment of connecting with people is worth all the missed-approaches, rejections, and attempts that fell flat. If you don't keep swinging at the ball, you'll never crack it out of the park.
The question I pose is this: How has running changed other parts of your life, for better or worse? What are you learning from running that isn't really about running at all?
Happy Tuesday. May your heart and feet be full of light today.
Where To Catch Me