(And other tenuous links…)
Last year I ran my first ever half marathon in the west London suburb of Ealing. This year I’ll be doing it all over again.
When I began my self-imposed training for this event, I didn’t consider myself ‘a runner’ – in the same way before I quit my job to become a freelance writer, I didn’t truly consider myself ‘a writer’.
But hey – guess what I’ve discovered?
I’m running to raise money for charity.
I’m also running because I like to push myself. Plus I enjoy proving that you really can do anything if you only put your mind to it and train the rest of your body to take action accordingly.
With that in mind, here are some ways that training for a half marathon has truly made me realise that I am a runner and I am a writer. I’m hoping they might help you become the freelance writer you want to be too.
1. At some point you just have to have faith, leap in and hope for the best
Preparation is great, but sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and go for it. The consequence of agreeing to run a half marathon in the pub on a Friday night is that inevitably all your friends will drop out. They’ll sensibly realise they’re not ready for a half marathon and that it was just the beer talking.
Me? I trained for a week, decided I could do it (thanks to an inaccurate running app that made me believe I was running better and faster than I really was), officially entered the race and started getting serious about it. So I’d never run longer than fifteen minutes before! So what? I’d never quit my full-time job to become a freelance writer before last year, but that’s working out just fine.
2. If you concentrate too much on what could go wrong… it probably will
While running, I’ve found that if I concentrate on the constant niggle in my right ankle that shoots pain up my leg every time my foot hits the ground, it slows me down. If I concentrate on how my lungs feel like they’re going to burst out of my chest when running at a faster pace, I have to slow down – or worse – stop altogether.
It’s the same with my journey to becoming the best freelance writer I can be. If I concentrate on all the potential hurdles that sprout up at almost every step along the way, I don’t get anywhere fast. If I instead focus on a much larger goal – while sticking to and having faith in the processes that will eventually lead me there – I find I get along just fine.
3. There are good days and bad days
Some days I leap out of bed, write 2000 words while eating a nutritious breakfast, then pull on my running shoes and run ten miles without even noticing. Other days I wake groggily, eat what I feel like, respond reactively to my emails for an hour, then drag myself out for a run. On days like the latter, the words ‘I can’t run’ repeat themselves on a loop inside my head. My legs turn to jelly, my breathing becomes irregular and I get more and more frustrated with my body, my mind and the world around me.
It’s on days like this that I wonder why the hell I got out of bed that morning, let alone entered myself into a race that’s clearly way out of my league. The point is though, on some days, everything is difficult – running, writing, being productive. It’s just a case of realising that everybody has bad days from time to time and that they’ll pass.
4. Pushing yourself really does mean you get better (even if it’s painful at the time)
On the ‘bad’ days I increasingly find myself pushing myself to my absolute limits. If it’s boiling hot and I’m running at the height of the day’s heat because I slept in that morning, then I’ll push myself to near exhaustion. If I’m going uphill, I push myself more than if I’m jogging easily downhill. Even though I’m no expert on this – and even though it’s incredibly painful at the time – a tiny part of my brain instinctively knows that pushing myself in extreme situations will make me a better runner.
I look at it this way: if I can run up a steep hill in almost unbearable heat then it should make running on flat surfaces with a cool breeze against my face seem like a holiday. It’s the same with my freelance writing career; if I can work steadily or even harder when the going gets tough, or push myself out of my comfort zone to find better work, then I know it will all come good in the end.
5. You need rest days
With running, your body literally needs days off to allow your muscles and joints time to rest and recuperate. I read the other day that hardly any small business owners these days take time off during the summer holidays. I myself have been guilty of working on bank holidays and at the weekends from time to time.
The point is though, particularly as writers, we need to leave our work to ‘rest’ so that our brains can still think creatively. We need to leave our freelance businesses for a day – or even for a week or two – to take a step back and see ways in which it can improve.
Besides, if you never take any time off to fully enjoy other areas of your life, what are you doing all this for in the first place?
So there you are – some very tenuous, yet hopefully useful, insights into why training for this half marathon is making me not only a better runner, but also a better freelance writer.
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photo credit: ashley rose, via photopin cc