Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Tue, 21 Nov 2000 09:12:51 -0500

Running and Writing

(from RC 331)

Several writers of books came together the day before the Royal Victoria Marathon to talk about our work at the Authors' Breakfast. Several dozen runners listened to our promotional pitches.

"You might wonder what this program has to do with you if you haven't written a book and never plan to start one," I said. "In fact, what the three of us up here do as writers is a lot like what we all do as runners. Writing attracted me for many of the same reasons as running."

First of the similarities is knowing exactly where we stand. Running times rank us against all other runners.

I know for sure that I'm no more or less than a midpack runner. One year at the New York City Marathon my finish was 14,500th of 29,000. You can't get any more midpack than that.

The same kind of ranking happens with books. Sales figures tell authors where they stand -- especially nowadays as Amazon.com rates each book it sells against every other.

My latest, Running 101, has yet to crack the top 700,000 on Amazon's best-seller list. The book before that, Best Runs, languishes around 150,000th.

But at least I'm in the race -- far ahead of everyone who wanted to write a book but never got around to it. Any runner who races beats everyone who never tries.

Any type of writing, like any running, takes effort. The amount varies with the size of the task, but nothing is effortless.

Writing my daily diary page is like taking an easy training run; writing a column like running a short race. Writing a book like Running 101 feels like a marathon; the Running Encyclopedia like an ultra. The bigger the effort, the prouder we are of it and the longer we remember it.

Both writing and running are artistic. Making art means creating something where nothing existed before. A writer of books fills hundreds of empty pages, and a marathoner fills an empty road with 26 miles of running. Others do this work better or faster, but no one can do it for us or take it from us.

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