Running and Writing

Wild ocean sunset watercolour


Running and Writing

Is there such a thing as too much of a good thing? Maybe. I've been learning some lessons from two recent experiences. I have written a novel. And I have signed up to run a 5K race. (Remember I have lung cancer?) I tell a lot of people what I'm up to and the response is almost disbelief. Both of these accomplishments happened one small step at time. Let me show you how it works, if you will.

I have a close friend who has been telling me for awhile that I should write a book. I wrote a story for NaNoWriMo last year. So I knew I could write a novel. But I haven't looked at the product of that exercise since I finished it at the end of November. To be honest I don't even know where I filed it. I'm sure I could find it. I know there are parts of the story that were good. But I haven't had any desire to revisit it.

Another friend challenged me to take part in the 3 day novel contest.  I thought about it. The prestigious Anvil Press sponsors the Labour Day weekend contest with first prize their publication of the novel.  I decided to try it. I started developing characters in my head, tell a bit of a story. My hope was that I could bring these characters together and more story would emerge.

At 12:03am on Saturday morning I put fingers to the keyboard starting to write. I didn't last long that late at night but at 7:00am, the next morning, I was up, fingers back in place and a cup of coffee at my elbow. My day stripped to bare essentials. No journal writing, no morning reading. I did take a walk. I did eat meals. I had an evening run. And I had an afternoon nap. Imagine my surprise when I discovered I had 8,000 words at the end of the day. I slept well.

Next morning fingers back on the keyboard. And I struggled to write. Where had the flow of the previous day gone? The story stagnated. My fingers were moving but the story wasn't there. Yet. I had something at the end of the day. It was like running through molasses though I had learned that if I pushed on, something would happen. More sleep.

And it is the final day, Monday. I was about 13,000 words in. I needed another 7,000 and I would have 20,000 words, about 70 pages. That's the minimum for the judges to consider it seriously. And the pages better be rock solid. But the story was emerging. I had an ending. And I realized that I needed to write it. The finish line was in sight. At 11:57 pm I hit save one last time on Chapter 8 and realized that I had done it. I had written a novel in 3 days. More like a novella but still it was a coherent story with movement and drama and a strong style that is mine.

Two days to "correct typos." Reading the submission guidelines I discovered that the writing was to be double spaced. Wow, one click and seventy pages went to one hundred and eight. I felt like a high school kid cheating on an essay. A careful read thru. Yes, I made the classic mistake - one of the characters had changed names between the beginning and the end. And a few other goofs. A several paragraphs fell to the delete key. On Wednesday evening hitting the submit button. Done. The accomplishment is still sinking in two weeks later.

I learned that all my journal writing, putting pen to paper every morning had taught me to get words flowing. Discipline. The experience of writing these blog posts. Describing the world around me. Working to tell a story through dialogue. All that stuff that I had done paid off. It didn't hurt that I had some money on the line either. The entry fee was $50 after all. Small steps that led to a huge outcome.
 
The second example is my running. I had been finding my walks getting longer and longer. A few friends had me thinking about seeing if I could run. And then I read a book, "Born to Run" by Christopher MacDougal. It moved me deeply as he talked about the community connection and freedom of long distance running. When I made the mistake of mentioning it to a few friends, they sent a link to "Band on the Run," an eight week training program to prepare for a 5K race. So began my running odyssey.

The training program used alternating walking and running in timed increments. The goal was to be able to run continuously for 25 minutes by the end of the training. There is no discussion of distance. The first run was simple enough. The instructions said warm up by walking for three minutes, run for two minutes, walk for three minutes and repeat that three times. Cool down at the end for five minutes by walking and stretching.

For my first run, I set up a timer on my phone and struck out. Part of the book had been about barefoot running. Enamored with the idea, I started running in the minimalist sandals that I usually used for walking. The feeling of those first runs was incredible. I knew I was in pretty good shape from my walking but it was a breeze. Not winded. Not stiff the next morning.

Two of my running friends and my son read me "The Riot Act" about needing good shoes. To address this, I did some research talking to people and reading some online articles. Whether it was the Scotsman or the realization that running might be a phase, I couldn't bring myself to spend a lot of money on shoes. A clerk at Sportchek took me under her wing and suggested I try a pair of Nike "Rival Fly." Colorful and my style, the ten precent discount that she told the clerk to give me made it a simple choice. The first run in them felt like someone had strapped wings to my feet. I could have just kept on running, a bit like Forrest Gump. Run Angus run.

About three weeks in, as I ran , I could feel a cramp developing in my calves as I finished my last run of the week. The next morning I was a bit stiff. Okay more than a little stiff, I could barely walk for a few hours after I got up. I realized that I had made a fairly strenous jump in the protocol and I had done it on a day that I was dehydrated. That was a Saturday night and I had till Tuesday to recover. Ice, some stretching instruction from my physiotherapist neighbour and I was back on track. I gave myself permission to not finish the Tuesday night run if any pain developed. But it was good. And it seemed that from then on it was easy going.

Six weeks in I realized that I was running almost five kilometers. And now I'm running almost six kilometers in about forty five minutes. If you had told me that I would be doing this at the beginning of June I wouldn't have believed you.

I have signed up for the "CIBC Run for the Cure." Thanks to a generous donor not only will I be running in a pink T-shirt but there will be a pink tutu added to the ensemble. I have asked the Canadian Cancer Society to direct donations given on my behalf to the Peer Support programs that have been so important to me. If you wish to donate here is the link - https://support.cancer.ca/site/TR/RunfortheCure/RFTC_NW_odd_?px=12977008&pg=personal&fr_id=27304

Thanks to all those who have given so generously already.

So this idea of too much of a good thing came out of some discussions about toxic positivity. We are often aware of toxic negativity but not so much of the dangers of too much positivity. I am so fortunate. I have to be careful with my health but I have truly been blessed. Writing, running, painting. My days are filled with wonderful creativity and deep relationships. And I share that. For some people it is excessive positivity. Like the boy who cried "wolf" maybe, I overstate the fact that I have an expiry date, I'm not sure. Still I wake each morning to a day rich with possibility. Of one thing though I am certain. I couldn't do it without the incredible team of people that support me in prayer and friendship.

Some of you are aware that my watercolour art was chosen for a BC Cancer fundraising campaign. It is available at https://topwraps.shop/collections/bc-cancer-fundraiser . I still haven't sorted out how to get them to the States. It isn't clear if it is a limitation of the store or the movement of goods over the border. So if you want a piece of my art now is your chance!

I've been reading the book of Amos lately. Get yourself a cup of coffee, curl up in your favorite chair and read it. I dare you to tell me that it doesn't describe our times perfectly. At the end of that book describing the disaster facing Israel, God through Amos says. "Things are going to happen so fast your head will swim, one thing fast on the heels of the other. You won’t be able to keep up. Everything will be happening at once—and everywhere you look, blessings! Blessings like wine pouring off the mountains and hills." Amos 9:14 The Message.

Great things are accomplished with small steps. I am discovering that there are mountains to be challenged, paintings to be made, books and poetry to be written. Thanks for all that you folks do for me.