This weekend we discovered a new favorite bookstore—you know the type: stone walls, uneven floor, close shelves requiring you to accidentally bump the person next to you with your bag as you reach for a book. While browsing through the small, but delightful selection, I found a book on therapeutic running. Having just started running again, the title (Running is my Therapy by Scott Douglas © 2019) and chapter headings pulled me right in. And then I saw the statement: “if you run, you’re a runner.”
During my non-running years, I’d fight jealousy and shame every time I passed a runner on the path I was walking. Or on those perfect running days—high 60s with a breeze—my body would almost and sometimes break into a run again. Starting up again made me nervous, though. I wasn’t a runner yet and wasn’t sure if I’d ever be one again. I didn’t want to feel sick or tired or sore. I didn’t want to dread my daily exercise routine. However, the first weeks were a surprise: I kept wanting to run more. Yes, I was sore the next day and needed to wait a day or two before the next run. Yes, I can still dread a run. But the feeling of running again—even for the 15 minutes that first time—brought it all back again.
So while standing there and reading that statement, it clicked. That’s the joy of being a runner: embracing the fact that you are doing it, that you are one instead of looking to stats and accomplishments for your identity. Instead of dreading that the next time might not be as fun and that maybe you’ll have to stop again.
You know where this is going? Yes. Perhaps if we write, we’re writers too. A beloved writing professor of mine always said, “Writers write.” While I’ve loved the simplicity and challenge of that statement, this week I suddenly realized from my renewed delight in running that turning the phrase around can actually relieve some pressure and identity anxiety in the writing realm too.
During non-writing weeks and waiting seasons, I sometimes tell myself that even if my writing life ended now with a couple published pieces, a handful of inspired students, or a few simple poems that captured a beautiful day or reminded my husband (and myself) of just how much I love him, it was enough.
This honesty is often the truth that frees me up to actually begin writing again. All of a sudden I’m doing it for the need of expressing an idea or the basic delight of capturing a thought. The angst of proving my identity is gone. I’ve written. I’m writing. And even in dry spells, I want to write.
So I’m a runner. I’m a writer. And today it feels so good to just do both for the love of each.