Why This Writer Runs

Since I began running a year ago, I’ve noticed many writers run.

Before I started running I thought runners were bonkers.

Why on earth would you drag yourself out of bed on a Sunday morning to pummel your feet and knacker your knees?

Then I became a runner and a boring convert who will go on about it until the room empties.

Come back. I’ll try to make it interesting.

Having a Goal

I signed up to do a 7k running event on 29th April 2018 to raise money for the hospice that cared for my mum, until her death in July 2017.

If you wish to donate, I’d be so incredibly grateful. I’d love to get as much money as possible in Mum’s memory: Lisa’s Donation Page for Running 7k

Before I committed to this event, I didn’t focus on running as something that would enhance my life. I couldn’t run very far either.

Now I run regularly, challenge myself to run further, run despite the grief of losing Mum, have shed lots of tears thinking I’m failing, dust myself off, have celebrated the successes, and learnt how running helps me to be a better writer.

The Challenge

I have always deviated towards activities and pursuits I have an inkling I’ll be fairly good at. The perfectionist in me doesn’t like to fail.

Why This Writer Runs - running and pieWhy on earth I run when I’m not naturally built for it and I am certainly no gazelle, used to puzzle me.

Then I realised something.

I am stubborn and determined. I hate quitting. If you give me a task, yep I’ll moan a bit when it gets tough but I will see it through. This is how running is for me.

From the moment I started a Couch to 5k programme I knew running was going to be challenging. I was a lot heavier than I am now and incredibly unfit.

Since then, every run has been a challenge. Each time I put on my running shoes I know that I am battling to get to the end.

The Physical

The physical challenge is getting this still overweight body to do what it needs to do. It has never let me down, despite injuries, aches, and pains.

I have cried because of injury but always bounced back.

Why This Writer Writes - Run like you stole somethingSince I began running I have never been so aware of my body’s limitations and strengths.

Writing may not appear to be a physical act but it does have some aspects that require the body to work.

Running has taught me that when I sit in the chair I need to be mindful of my posture. There’s nothing quite like slaving over a laptop to give your body a form to rival the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Before I started running I thought a core was something you finally got to if you were foolish enough to choose to eat an apple rather than chocolate. Now I am obsessed with my core.

I’m tilting that inner middle part of the body like a seesaw. That core is tightened like an elastic band and cursed when it slackens.

Running has helped me to lose weight, tone up, and have more pride in my body. It reminds me of writing drafts; improving little by little.

Editing is like shaving off the extra cuddly bits. It’s a slog but it’s worth the workout.

The Mental

I began running for my mental health. As someone who has had episodes of depression and occasional anxiety over the years I wanted to try exercise as part of my care programme.

Running is mainly a mental exercise. When I run I battle the inner head demons who tell me some of the following:

  • You’re too fat
  • You’re unfit
  • Go home and eat cake instead
  • This is too much like hard work

After a run I can often be more mentally tired than physically. It’s tough but incredibly satisfying when I reply to the above:

  • I’ve lost a lot of weight and will lose more. I’m a freaking hero for carrying this weight on this run too
  • I am so much fitter than I used to be and will be fitter for doing this run
  • I can have cake when I get home because I ran
  • It is bloody hard but the buzz afterwards is worth it

I’ve transferred my mental approaches to running to writing, particularly with my novel.

How Writing a Novel is Like Running

The First Draft

Why This Writer Runs - running injuryWhen you start running you get sucked in by the lies that it’s a cheap form of exercise where all you need is a pair of trainers and the will. Utter crap.

Any runner who has been doing this for a while will tell you that if you want to run and not be crippled, you’ve got to get the proper gear.

True story: years ago when I ran on a treadmill I did so in tight, old trainers. I got an infected toe from the pressure on it and couldn’t walk properly for weeks. I liken this to my very first novel. I went straight into writing it as a newbie who thought she knew what she was doing. I didn’t plan or research. The finished product is an infected big toe. It’s wobbly, painful, and needs a lot of rehabilitation.

The Following Drafts

Each time I run, I aim to be better. I try to work on things like my pace, distance, time, and form. Just like revising a novel, I try to work on what came before.

Strava is a runner’s obsession. It is both a blessing and a curse.

Strava, or any app that records your runs, shows you how you’re progressing. On days when you get at least one Personal Best (PB), you feel like an Olympian.

Heaven help the world on the days when there are no PBs and, even worse, we were slower on the next run. We vow never to run again. Sound familiar to when your writing drafts seem crap?


Why This Writer Runs - activewearI am not a natural runner. I have to work hard at it. I accept that I need help. To this end I now have a running coach.

I put it off for ages. Everyone knows how to run, right? You just put one foot in front of the other and move a bit faster than a walk. Nope.

If you don’t run efficiently and are mindful of your body, you will get injured.

If you don’t cross train and build up your strength if you don’t have it, you will suffer when you up your distances.

My running coach is my editor. He sees what I produce in terms of running and what my body can do and he helps me hone it and improve. I am not ashamed to use his services. I want to be the best runner I can be. Using an editor is just as important.

Running has been trial and error for me. I have probably purchased just about every running accessory known to support my legs and feet.

I even have a Booband that keeps ‘the girls’ firmly in place. My sports bra is like a straitjacket but every larger breasted woman runner will agree with me that the struggle of the bounce is real.

While The Husband rolls his eyes every times a parcel turns up in the post, I know I am editing my running by sorting out the messy bits and pieces.

How Running Helps Me to Write

Why This Writer Runs - running is like coffeeRunning gives me energy.

Getting outside is important for this naturally introverted writer. Left to my own devices, I would stay in my ‘safe’ writing corner and gather cobwebs.

I see the outside world and other people. Both provide great writing fodder. I have already included scenes in my novel based on what I’ve seen on my runs.

If I can run, I can write. Both are tough sometimes. I can do it when I set my mind to it.

It makes me disciplined. I run or exercise on certain days. I make it routine, particularly now I’m training for an event. This has transferred to my writing.

I feel better about myself now I’m fitter. I have more confidence and this transfers to my writing. I take more risks and accept more writing challenges because of running.

I am a nicer person because of running. A run clears my head and makes me less inclined to write ranty things, particularly in blog posts or on social media. That can only be a good thing for the human race.

Are You a Runner?

Writer or not, do you run? Why do you do it? What do you get from it?

Running writers; how does it help with writing?

Share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

About Lisa Sell

Lisa Sell is a fiction writer. When she's not wrestling with words she can be found showing the love for chocolate, cheese, coffee, books, the cats, and the husband. Perhaps not in that order.

6 comments on “Why This Writer Runs

  1. I used to run all the time until I became ill. Now I walk to keep fit but I am going to build up my running again gradually. Like my writing at the moment I suppose. Start slowly, gain confidence with my writing skills, up the pace a bit and challenge myself to improve then work towards my final goal that novel that I’ll successively write eventually, and win the race!

    1. Sounds like a sensible plan. There are Couch to 5k apps which are great fro beginning running. They build you up slowly and have walking breaks in between. That’s how I started.

      Writing is definitely like running. In both I’m definitely not a sprinter!

      Thanks for commenting, Debbie.

  2. Well done on persevering with the running! It’s awesome that you’re doing the 7k for your mum, too. That’s an amazing goal to have, and just like getting your book finished, it’s going to be such a huge accomplishment. And then there’ll be the next one… 😉

    I used to run, but my knees and hip didn’t enjoy it too much. And for me, I find jumping around (with or without weights) more fun. I do miss seeing stuff, though – there’s not a lot going on in the living room or on the terrace except the cat judging me…

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! My legs aren’t always a fan of running but it’s still worth it.

      I’m sure having Layla as your main focus is both rewarding and fulfilling your cat slave obligations!

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