The long run

In my progress towards a half marathon, which I’m running in just 11 days’ time, one part of training has been to extend my longest runs. Previously, the farthest I’d run had been 10k, or 6.2 miles, but the half marathon is twice that distance, so gradually, over the weeks, I saw my longest run achievement edge up from there to the half marathon distance of 13.1 miles, or around 21k.

As I set out for that full distance run last week, I was feeling relieved that it would be the last time I had to cover a really long distance on a training run, not least because it would take me around 3 hours. I was also feeling that half marathon was really too long, and I preferred 10k distance for races.

By the time I was halfway round, I began to feel that I’d really, really miss those long runs when the half marathon was done.

Yesterday I ran only 8 miles. Yes, I said only. I’m tapering down now, so as I have to miss parkrun on Saturday, on Sunday it will be 6.2, as part of a virtual 10k race, and next Tuesday I’ll probably only do 3 miles or so, and not run on Thursday or Saturday at all, in preparation for the HM on the Sunday.

So now I find I feel cheated. Only 8 miles. Only an hour and a half. I’ve got quicker over the time, thankfully, but I still run slowly enough to have a couple of days of panic after the furore at the weekend where a runner was pulled from a race for being too slow, until the fallout from it convinced me that I’d be okay and that what happened was exceptional and not approved of by the majority of the running community.

Last night I found myself checking interesting marathons that were coming up on my timeline – Bath, where 4k of it is through railway tunnels. The New Forest, an area I’ve always loved. Bedgebury Forest, trail running not too far from home. It’s far too early to be considering any marathon, of course; I haven’t even completed a half marathon yet (but those races mentioned also have half marathon versions, the little voice whispers). But it does seem that the long distance bug has bitten well and truly, and having discovered the pleasure of going out for a full morning’s run and covering the miles around my local area, I consider it likely that I’ll keep going even after this race is out of the way. While the shorter, faster races generally hold little appeal, perhaps because I know I’m highly unlikely to achieve the sort of speed that most do, the longer distances definitely do call to me.

I often draw the parallel between my running and my writing, and I feel that applies here too; short stories really don’t appeal to me. They don’t have enough meat on the bones for me to get stuck in. But novel writing – yeah, that I can handle. The in-depth, longer story, with multiple characters and plotlines. A project that’s definitely for the long-haul.

I briefly considered giving up my writing recently. Was there any point? Was I ever going to produce anything worthwhile? Looking back at what I’ve written so far was reassuring; no prize winner, but sound for what it was. I’m enjoying the process. I’m learning from it. And in the end, that’s all I can ask from anything, whether it’s planning and writing a novel or training for and running a long-distance race.

And will I ever run a marathon? Who knows, but at the moment the little voice on my shoulder seems to think I will.

 

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Taking it steady

I’ve vowed to run a half marathon and complete my novel by next year sometime. To be honest, I could probably do both of those a lot sooner. But it wouldn’t be pretty and I wouldn’t enjoy the process or the result.

Realistically, I’m not going to go out and run 13 miles tomorrow. That would only leave me in pain and upset because I did badly and didn’t enjoy it. I’m going to build up the distance gradually, and accept that it will take a while to be able to run the whole distance, and I’m not going to set any records doing it.

In the same way, I could call what I’ve written a novel. Or I could labour and agonise over it and then get upset and give up because it’s not as good as I would like it to be. But I’d be better off taking it steady, fixing the plot first of all, and then worrying more about the wording, because the more experience I get the more I’ll improve, and I shouldn’t be taking on more than I’m comfortable with at any stage, while also not allowing myself to sit back and do nothing.

The key to both is that┬ásteady does it. We can worry about quality and speed later, let’s just make sure I get to the finishing line. And after that there’s another and another to look forward to, and by the time I’ve done a few I’ll be doing so much better than the first time, more easily.

And then I’ll wonder what all the fuss is about.

I wonder, do experienced writers, who have no trouble creating a sound plot and characters and stringing the prose together, remember the days when it was hard for them to write quality work? I know I remember that first parkrun, and how bad I felt at the time and for the rest of the weekend. But I’m still running, because somehow despite the discomfort I knew it would be worth it. I’m just waiting to reach the other side with writing too.