A few years ago, I took up running to get in shape and give me something more interesting to do physically than go the gym and feel miserable in a room with other people feeling miserable. (My stock and often self-plagiarized excuse for this was that group exercise makes me feel like I’ve been exiled to North Korea, and running on a treadmill seems like too much of an unpleasant metaphor.)
Starting was hard, and after trying to increase mileage too quickly, I ended up with runner’s knee and runner’s ankle which made it extremely painful to walk down stairs for a few weeks. But Once my joints caught up, it was extremely satisfying. I quit when I got pregnant and didn’t start again until six months ago. It was easier the second time around. I’m not particularly fast, but it’s a good sport for me because I have zero natural athletic ability. (I played sports in high school, but only attained participation trophy levels of accomplishment.) I also like it because it’s meditative. I don’t run with music, because it makes it harder to focus on breath and form. Not surprisingly, one of my resolutions is to increase distance this year.
I also like it as a metaphor for writing. Hard to start, not always enjoyable in the doing, and deeply satisfying in the finishing. One of my junior writers recently lamented to me that he found writing well “really fucking hard.” It is fucking hard, I told him. Even when you’re good at it. But it’s like running. You do it enough and you learn how to start, how to tolerate the pain in the middle, and then you feel great afterward. It’s never great all the way through. And that’s normal.