I’m not the first to point out the parallels between running and writing.
Anyone who is passionate about either the latter or the former, has probably - at the very least - heard of Haruki Murakami’s brilliant memoir ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’.
And how could anyone ever match those striking descriptions of the interplay between trainers and pens? The prose that grows in the runners’ mind, fertilized with beads of sweat and flecks of dirt, flying off a shoe as it pounds into a muddy puddle on a rainy morning during an arduous 10k.
But, for what it’s worth, I agree.
Every time I set out on a run, I can’t help but feel like I’m preparing to fill a page; to navigate my way through the lines, establish a consistent pace and tell a story with a pleasant ending and rewarding aftermath.
It’s actually uncanny how the two activities mirror each other, starting with the build-up:
Where shall I go? What do I want the route to include? Is the aim to move quickly from A to B or to progress at a more leisurely pace, taking in sights and sounds, ups and downs, small nuggets of information here and there - not vital to the exercise, but a nice addition to remain alert.
Sometimes I look for the smoothest possible path, avoid pedestrians who – like superfluous commas - break my stride. Sometimes I’m keen to avoid hurdles and slopes, preferring a flat and even tone, gentle, with no sudden steps down which I could trip, or pavements that threaten to twist my ankle.
Other times though, I thrive on the thrill of navigating around sub-clauses and a smattering of dashes, hyphens and semi-colons, embracing the challenge and, naturally, the sense of satisfaction when I reach the end of each paragraph and treat myself to a sip of water.
The faster runs are of course more breakneck. I liken them to a sharp headline informing of a company’s stock movement: “Shares plummet ten percent on acquisition talks”. Speed is of the essence here but errors, like cars, potentially career ending. Or fatal.
The analysis, meanwhile, is an endurance event: Water breaks, like sub-headings, are crucial to keeping the reader occupied, and keeping the tempo measured. You don’t want to be crawling across the finish line.
Perhaps this is one reason why I prefer running alone. I’d never squeeze in next to a colleague, hunch over his desk and jointly construct each sentence of an article, slaloming around points of contention, struggling to match our paces, my right hand perched on the key board next to his left, both of us trying to flex our muscles.
No. I work much better alone, with my own thoughts, my own breath and the footfall of my own trainers, like a dependable metronome upon which the story can organically grow.