As I have confessed in on this blog, writing for me was more of a task rather than a craft. People were born writers rather than created through the process of writing and rewriting and rewriting. In a similar way, I have thought of runners as born not made. I had some proof of this fact in my own life. For more than five years, I was a sprinter. Speed, whether in the outfield or running around the bases, came to me rather naturally. I did not have to work at running fast; I simply did. But ask me to run around a track or heavens forbid a mile and I would break out into a cold sweat, paralyzed at the idea. I would get out of breath and my legs would start to hurt. Every time since I turned thirty when I tried to run, I would hate the feeling and the process. And quit.
I began a Couch-to-5K program (Active) almost three months ago. The program tricked me into doing something I enjoy—walking—with a running pattern as a substitute. I ran for time rather than distance. The first four weeks were not difficult with more walking than running, but in week five they flipped pattern without me knowing it. By then, I had made the practice part of my routine and became proud of my accomplishments, running almost three miles every other day. I asked a friend who became my running evangelist what do I do after the C25K program and he recommended a running plan. Seven weeks later I was running 20 miles per week. Not bad for a non-runner. Something, however, happened this week that made running and writing more alike again: a setback.
After running seven miles this past Saturday, which was the first time I have ever run that far, I returned on Sunday to do a five mile run. In between, I had purchased a set of insoles for my running shoes because I had noticed the pounding of the road more in recent days. Within a quarter mile, I knew I had done something wrong. A sharp pain became more pronounced on the outside of my right knee. I ran through it—I know, stupid. My athletic training past helped me figure out the problem was not in the structure of the knee but I could not quite figure out what had created the problem. I suspected the insoles but wasn’t quite sure. I took Monday off from running as is my custom and returned Tuesday to do a three mile run. After the first mile I knew I might be doing serious damage so I stopped and returned home. Doing some more research, I figured out that somehow a tendon on the outside of my knee had irritated the bursa underneath and that was the problem. Insoles out and ibuprofen at an anti-inflammatory dosage and stretching the ITB, I successfully ran two mile this morning without pain.
What does any of this have to do with writing? I encounter similar setbacks in writing, less of a physical nature but setbacks nonetheless. Running and writing as discipline habits have helped me work through obstacles in the research and writing process of the MLK project, some of which occurred this week too, in the same way that an injury can undo successful training to the runner. In the past, I would have conceded on both fronts that I am neither a writer nor a runner. But near week’s end, I am confident that I have adapted to the setbacks rather than give up. Seeing the work as a process helps because it is the steps along the way that become markers rather than the finished product at the end. I hope to have those too, but I focus less on them now.