The Story of How An Unfit Man, Allergic to Any Kind of Physical Activity, Fell in Love With Running And Became A Better Writer In The Process

The Story of How An Unfit Man, Allergic to Any Kind of Physical Activity, Fell in Love With Running And Became A Better Writer In The Process

This post is a part of an ongoing series entitled MIP {Man In Progress}. After my 25th Birthday I decided to improve three aspects of my life, one of those aspects was my physical well-being.  My first goal was to run my first 5k on December 11. My philosophy is that a writer’s work and his life are irrevocably intertwined and in order to improve one, we inevitably have to improve the other.

“So, as I move out into the world, I live out my uniqueness, but when I dare look into my core, I come upon a common center where all lives begin. In that center we are one and the same. In this way, we live out the paradox of being both unique and the same. For mysteriously and powerfully, when I look deep enough into you, I find me, and when you dare to hear my fear in the recess of your heart, you recognize it as your secret that you thought no one else knew.”

– Mark Nepo

There is a boy who often appears at the park where I train. As I rush past him, the boy is playing catch with his dad. This brown boy is a rolling bubble of joy. He’s all giggles and high-pitched screeches of absolute delight. What is the boy doing that is making him so happy?

He’s running. Just running. That’s it. He runs while his father, rolling his eyes and tossing his hands in the air in exasperation, follows. Meanwhile, the boy pummels through the grass, kicks at the leaves, rolls through the air, laughs, and smiles. This boy sways his arms around, and looks about him, as if the park, and that moment, is all that exists.

As I run past this boy, I’m sweating and I’m miserable. I’m huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf, except I have no pig house to blow down. My ankles hurt. I have a cramp. I can’t seem to look forward, because I learned that dipping my head forward somehow prevents me from stopping completely. There’s a lot going through my head at the moment. Not much of it is positive. There’s a force that brushes across me, and that force is too big for me to carry, so I stop. Walk for a bit. That boy is still giggling in the background.

I’m jealous of that boy. That jealousy makes me ashamed. How could a grown man be jealous of a boy? Maybe it is because that boy thinks running is fun. But for me, running is a pain. I hate it, and I seriously wonder what that boy knows that I don’t.

I’m a writer, I think, why am I even doing this? To prove a point? What point? That I can do it? I’m just not cut out for this kind of thing. My body isn’t made for it. My body is made to sit at a friggin’ laptop and type! Why am I making my body do more?

As my thoughts keeps tossing themselves around, I hear the boy rushing past me again, now even more happy than before. What has changed? Nothing. What is the boy doing? He. is. just. running.

Ignoring the boy, I scrape my shoes against the ground, launch myself forward, and try again.

On the morning of the race, my friend D is there with me. D signed up for the race at the last-minute, and he’s worried he’s not going to make it because he hasn’t trained for the race. I, on the other hand, am not nervous. I’ve been training for this race for some weeks now and I feel confident, relaxed, and excited.

When the horn sounds, I launch forward. (I’m used to starting strong.) Before I know it, I’ve lost D in the crowd, and all the people around me start falling behind. I easily pass every one of them. The runners are of all shapes and sizes, too. Some old, some middle-aged, some as young as me, some younger, some only children. I pass them. One by one.

I’m on mile 2 now. I’m strategizing. I will need at least one small rest before I finish. But I didn’t plan it for this moment. It doesn’t matter. I’m getting tired. I’m falling behind. Every person I passed before, is now passing me. They are of all shapes and sizes. Old, middle-aged, young as me, younger, and finally a couple of 7-year old boys pass me. Friggin’ a.

The crowd is moving ahead, and I am falling behind. Then there he is. D finally passes me. And now I am even falling behind my friend, the one who didn’t event train for this race!

I walk for a bit. I need the break. I noticed others walk for a bit as well. They need a break, too. I stare at the beach in the distance and wonder how much longer it’s going to be. I hear someone cry out: “Just a half-a-mile left!”

This propels me to action. I must beat D. I think. At the very least, I must beat D! I surge ahead, blast forward, and pull as much of the reserved energy I didn’t know I had from out of the very bottom of my stomach. I was so determined, so eager, so sure I would beat D to the finish line. I was so excited about it, I was having so much fun trying to beat D, my friend, that the little brown boy inside of me laughed and giggled. Deep inside of me, that little boy gave a high-pitched screech of absolute delight.

My arms swayed around, my eyes looked about me, at the beach, at the runners, as if this was all that existed. I felt as if I was part of something bigger than me. I imagined that my fellow runners were all my fellow writers, the ones that comment on my blog–each one of these writers at a different stage in the writing race. Some of them are falling behind, some are surging forward, but all are going to make it in the end. Each at their own pace, focused and determined to reach that finish line.

I sprang forward at last. I saw a blue mat cross below my feet. Before I knew it, I had crossed the finished line. Some man was removing the chip from my tennis shoe while I was frantically looking for the water bottles. Once I got a water bottle and downed its contents, I headed over to the place where my other friends had gathered to cheer us on. I noticed that they were all still staring at the people coming in at the finish line. When I appeared, they turned around and looked surprised.

“We didn’t even see you!” they cried, “We we’re following the race so closely, how did you get past us?”

I had no idea.

D was already there, a slight smile on his face. I playfully scolded him:

“I can’t believe you passed me and you didn’t even train for this!”

We laughed while everyone else still seemed puzzled that they had missed me.

Not a single thought was going through my head at that moment. I felt very peaceful and relaxed. (My friend C had described this phenomenon to me before, and called it a “runner’s high.” I had no idea what she meant, until I felt the “high” for myself. What a wonderful sensation.)

A cool mist came back to the beach side city. A ferris wheel twirled in the distance. As we headed over to grab breakfast, I felt a little happier. I didn’t understand what had happened, until later that day, my sister M pointed out to me that sports and physical activity can be very healing.

That was it. I was healed. Running had healed a wound I didn’t even know I had. I had brought the little boy inside me back to life, and somehow, in the process, I had fallen in love with running.

How Running A 5k Improved My Writing

  • It Gave Me Focus: After I started training for my 5K, my body was no longer restless when I would sit down to type my novel. I would get out all of my excess energy and stress during the times when I was training, and none of that bad energy would be left to get in the way of my writing.
  • My Feelings of Isolation Were Counterbalanced by A Symbolic Team Effort: Many of us feel very lonely as we write. Those feelings of isolation from the world can make us start to feel pretty nasty about ourselves, the world, and our work. But running in a race, and being part of a team, made me feel a part of a whole. I could see very clearly that I was not alone, and how, in actuality, I was part of this huge movement of writers around the world working toward the same goal (a phenomena I described above.) The team aspect of running a 5k boosted my confidence, my self-esteem, and restored my sanity.
  • Shuts Up My Mind: The “runner’s high” I described above really helps to quiet your mind. That means that less of your worries, fears, doubts can get in the way of you sitting down and getting some serious writing done.

If you are a writer thinking of joining a race, I recommend starting small and local. If you never do any physical activity (basically the shape I was in when I began), you’re going to need some tips for getting yourself started. My friend C recommends The Couch to 5K program.

Good luck, and happy running!

much “10k anyone?”


What physical activity gets you relaxed and ready to write? What teams have you joined to counterbalance the feelings of loneliness and isolation that often come with writing?

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Categories: MIP (Man in Progress)