I promise not to get all literary on you, but last week I wrote That Crucial First Step about the connection between running and writing, and the post got a startling number of hits. Since then, it seems that connections between distance running and writing keep popping up.
I’d always professed that if you force yourself out the door for a run, even when you’re not necessarily in the mood, that most times good things will happen once a soaking perspiration envelopes your body and your mind is at ease. Well, like most things in life, there are no absolutes. Sometimes things just don’t click and it’s better to walk, relax or take a day off.
I am reading Anthony Doerr’s Four Seasons in Rome and he describes the futility he experienced in the process of writing his novel about the German occupation of a village in Normandy between 1940 and 1944. Doerr writes,
“Mornings I try to get to work early, hurrying down the long hallway… I paper one wall with grainy photos of bombed-out cities… two pencils wait in the drawer. A few notes for my novel flutter on the cot… I read about the Allied assault on Germany, incendiaries, firestorms, infernos so hungry for oxygen they sucked trees from the ground and human beings through the walls. Beyond the windowsill, chimney swifts dip and turn over the garden. I open a notebook, sharpen a pencil… Some mornings, that is as far as I get.” Wow, now I don’t feel so bad about the mornings I turn around after one mile and run back to my Jeep.
And then I got an email from a friend at the Bucks County Writer’s Workshop with the Oscar Wilde quote reflecting the same feeling I have when I can’t find the rhythm in my stride. “All morning I worked on the proof of one of my poems, and I took out a comma; in the afternoon I put it back.” It’s as if Wilde himself returned from one of those ten-mile runs where the last step was as arduous as the first.
In my yet to be published memoir Twenty-four Years to Boston—My Journey from the Vegetable Aisle to Boylston Street, I describe runner’s high as the state in which, “the act of running becomes effortless and feels as though my feet no longer touch the ground, and I can go on forever.” And then I am lying in bed reading Four Seasons in Rome again last night and a description of writer’s high hits me right between the eyes. “That’s the miracle of writing, the place you try to find—when the room, your body, and even time itself cooperate in a vanishing act.”
I suppose I’m a romantic, but for all you runner’s out there I’m sure you find parallels between your vocation or avocation and running. If you do, I’d love to hear about them.