I used to hate running.
I was never fast as a kid. I liked sports like judo, where the outcome of a match wasn’t entirely based on one’s physical prowess. Strategy, technique, the ability to think quickly all played a part in the sport. But running was competitive and almost always a foregone conclusion… the fastest kid would win the race… and it was the same guys all the time.
I once trained hard for a 1600 m (1 mile) race. I was about eight on nine years old. I got up early in the morning and mapped out a route around the block and figured out how many laps I needed for the full 1600 m. I ran that route religiously. It seemed like I did it for months (although to be fair, it was probably every morning for a week–minus Saturday–you know… cartoons). When it came time for the race I came in last. And the same kid who won every other race won that one too.
Fast forward to later in life. My wife started running with her friends at work. She entered a half marathon. Like a loving husband, I watched from the comfort of my camp chair. She and her friends passed and did awesome. But then, I watched as other came in… people that were older than me, heavier, struggling to make it to the finish line. And there I was sitting with a large Slurpee in hand. The point, I realized as we all cheered them in, wasn’t to win, but to do it.
The best exercise is the exercise you do, and even better the exercise you do consistently. And of the biggest keys to consistency is making sure you enjoy it.
When I was focused on the outcome, it was almost impossible to enjoy. If you have ten people in a race, and you’re all or roughly equal physical fitness, the chances of winning are only one in ten, much less so if you’re not the fittest.
But in the words of Baz Luhrmann, the race is long, and in the end it’s only with yourself.
I started running after watching that half-marathon, and I’ve been a runner ever since. I’m still not that fast, but what changed was a mental shift. Running became like a personal meditation… get outside, get the heart rate up, and for the time that I’m out there nothing else really matters… I just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
In a lot of ways, writing is like that too. Just keep putting words down. Eventually you get to the finish line, and in the end, that’s what really matters.