Running, Metaphorically Speaking
By Marlene Farrell
“Running is a metaphor for what we do in life.”
A member of my writer’s group said that while I was apologizing for forcing everyone to wade through another draft running blog. Because, really, how many times does a non-runner want to hear about the epiphanies that hit me while scurrying up the trails around Leavenworth?
Was my writer’s group companion merely being kind and tolerant? Well, that day I took it as permission to plunge ahead with my reading.
Perhaps running — in its essence of striving to improve and the dedication to work at it, little by little — is a decent metaphor for overcoming other challenges in life.
Can’t everyone relate to stories about moments of mandatory toughness, a sense of failure and how camaraderie helps us achieve our goals?
Recently I found myself gathered with a group of strangers, checking my watch, double-checking that I had everything I needed, taking little sips from my water bottle. I smiled and introduced myself. I would be with these people for many hours and I didn’t know if I could keep up.
I felt a mix of excitement and dread. Excitement for a chance to experience something new, and dread anticipating the work, sometimes painful, that would be required to get there.
Rather than a long race, this was a three-day writer’s workshop. When I recognized that my feelings matched the runner in me before a hard workout, I knew that I could succeed through focus, knowing my goals, and not going out too fast, taking it step by step.
I was fortunate to have a teacher, Nick O’Connell, guide me and set a pace that was manageable. I was pushing the envelope of my experience, but also finished the days full of energy and with confidence that I could handle it and repeat it.
In running, few of us are so lucky as to have a coach. I have had a few coaches in the past, and they have played an invaluable role in my development as an athlete. In particular, they have helped me recognize my strengths while also working on my weaknesses, so that I could continue to progress. Without a current coach, I take what I’ve learned from a variety of sources to tailor a running plan that makes sense for me given my fitness, health and goals.
On the middle day of the writer’s workshop, we had two hours to write and were given a daunting yet attainable task. We had prepared to write a thousand-word piece by having a concrete story idea ahead of time. When we were all amazingly successful, we discussed how two hours a day can be so productive for our craft if we safeguard that time and make a habit of it. If we try to do more, we might write many more pages on one day but at the expense of needing days to recuperate and regain balance in our lives. If I do just enough to finish a scene, for instance, and leave myself hungry, with an idea at the ready, then I can repeat that pace of writing, day after day.
Doesn’t that sound like running? If I train for an ultra, maybe runs that leave me tripping over my feet is appropriate. But my current goal is speed and strength for cross-country. I want to run distances that test me but don’t debilitate me. I want to be fresh and hungry for the next tempo run, the next interval session, the next race.
I never want to stop lacing up my running shoes. I never want to stop scribbling down ideas, trying to turn them into something more. Pacing, balance, and guidance from knowledgeable mentors will keep me running, writing and seeing more parallels between the two.
Marlene Farrell is a Leavenworth writer and long-distance runner who has qualified twice for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. She also helps coach the Peshastin-Dryden Striders kids running club.