Writing and running

I recently blogged about how I was going to try and get fit again, after a few years of being held back by family health. So, while my children have been in school, I’ve submitted some new fiction and joined a running club.

My first attempt at flash fiction was rejected and my first run clocked in at about a 9-minute mile. Both of these suck, but they don’t suck as much as not writing or running.

It feels strange to be struggling when I used to be fit and my fiction used to be accepted. I’ve realised that, at best, it’s going to be a journey rather than a jump straight back in. Meanwhile all my writing buddies have published loads of books in my absence (all! loads!) while I’ve published exactly none.

It’s time to get back out there.

So, for the first time in my life I’m running in a crowd and doing hill reps. It’s been fun (people), but also weird (where am I going, and why am I wearing DayGlo?), awkward (do I breathe louder than everyone else? Did I just elbow someone?) and enjoyable (I love hills). Every painful mile feels like a step forward in progress, and a step closer to my younger days. (I do love a delusion.)

When you restart something after a long gap, it’s funny how history rises up. During everything, I never stopped swimming and I can hold the same cruising pace now as I did when I was 28 — it’s a comfy fall-back rhythm. That’s not the case with running though — my feet remember a comfort zone of around a 7-minute mile and it’s a constant surprise that my legs just don’t move that way any more. Now when I try to speed up from a 9-min mile to even an 8-min mile, everything hurts and I end up with an 8:56 mile. I run like crazy and find my legs wobbling beneath me, until I’m pitching home in a state of near unbalance. This has nothing to do with age (nothing!); it’s all weight and fitness. That’s my story, anyway, because I can’t get younger, only lighter and fitter.

Still, even though Strava is not flattering me, I believe I can do this. My body is trying, as it always does, to survive and do as it’s told. I show it a hill and it digs in and up I go, legs screaming but still pushing. I feel like I’m scouring my lungs, but nevertheless the air’s going in and out and my heart’s still beating. I’ve never loved my own body so much as when it face-planted the other day after a run, sweat streaming down my chest, and then one of my kids called and my old body shoved me back onto my feet and off I went again. Damn, I might not look like much but that is one obedient body and it’s given me a family and a life and everything. I’m a bit snotty and pink, and breathing like a rhino, but this phase will pass and there will be a point (please, God, soon) when my legs find an old familiar rhythm. There’s a magical, immense feeling when you realise you can keep going for hour after hour… feet flying, hips reaching, lungs pumping in-out to the music all the way over the horizon. It feels like freedom.

Meanwhile my writing’s so awful that I withdrew an entry the other day — some days I delete everything. I’ve enjoyed three rejections lately, one of which was a proper surprise. But still, I am doing it. Writing awful stuff, deleting it, writing more, reading it, staring, editing, binning, starting again.

Doing it.


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