Yesterday I had the amazing privilege of running the four mile Fort Collins Thanksgiving Day Run with my mom, husband and daughter. Each of us ran in a different way. Since this was my 12 year old daughter’s first organized run, she bounced with nerves and excitement at the starting line. Once running, she zoomed ahead of all of us, worried that “everyone would beat her” (she’s a tiny bit competitive, that one). My husband, aside from wrangling two dogs and trying to keep our daughter in sight, was just enjoying the experience of being able to do something physical again. After a severe hand injury a few weeks ago, he had only recently been cleared by his P.T. to jog again.
My mom, who is now in her mid-60’s and has been serious runner for the last 10 years was trying to keep up with the rest of the family and dodge the 4,200 other people and their mishmash of strollers, scooters, bikes and dogs. It was more of a struggle for her this year than it has been in years past, and my heart ached a little when she told me it might be her last Turkey Trot, ending our tradition of nine years.
I stuck with my mom and let my husband and daughter go ahead. My goal in this race was to make it as easy for my mom as possible, so I set a slow pace, carried on most of the conversation so she could catch her breath, and tried to guide us on the safest route.
Later as we lounged around the living room in our post-turkey stupor, it struck me that my family’s experience with the race shows how running goals and perspectives evolve over time. Running, much like writing, is a long term commitment. It’s not something you pick up a few times during the year and expect to be good at it.
Carrying on this analogy, what our writing looks like also evolves over our lifetime and we need to let it. Too many times I have tried to force my writing career into what I wished it was (an ultramarathoner writer who spent the bulk of everyday working on my craft). That’s not the phase I’m in, however, and I’d guess it’s not the phase many of us are in, since it takes a long time to make writing something that can be our sole means of financial stability.
I’m not an ultramarathoner right now and that’s fine. Maybe I’m training for my first 5K/becoming a regular contributor to several magazines. Or I could be working myself up to a 10K, with an eye towards how fast I’m running my miles/getting a book to an interested agent or publisher. Maybe I have to content myself with a leisurely jog now and then as time allows/journaling and keeping connected with the writing community.
Whatever pace of writing my life allows, I want to be at peace with it and not waste my time longing for a different stage in the journey. All I need to do is run the race that’s set before me now, to the best of my ability, and trust that my evolution as a writer is a lifelong adventure.