Running When You Shouldn’t Have The Time

On Tuesday morning, I woke up early, walked the dog, then set out on a 8K progression run. The goal: run each kilometre faster than the one before, ending somewhere below my 5K pace.

Back in my home office, five stacks of paper waited for me. Each stack was a chapter in my running memoir. It will be published next spring, and is due in chunks now through May 1. Those five chapters were to be in my editor’s inbox by the next morning.

This is a frantic time. I’m squeezing in windows of writing and editing around regular work. My nights and weekends have evaporated. The dust bunnies in my living room have turned into tumbleweeds. My dog is beyond bored with me. Even when I’m not working on the book, it’s always there, like a bird hovering over my shoulder that occasionally swoops down to peck at my eardrum and poop on my back.

If there were ever a time to set aside running, this would be it. My time is scheduled down to the half hour. Otherwise, I couldn’t squeeze everything in.

Instead, I’ve embarked on a somewhat aggressive six-week training schedule to prepare for an upcoming fun run, a schedule that overlaps with the final weeks of book writing.

Running is a towrope pulling through my life, and at a time when stress squeezes me, I hold on tight. That time on the road is my mine. I need that daily break, whether it’s to listen to a podcast while testing the capacity of my legs and lungs, gossip on an easy run with a running friend, or give my brain a rest on a long, slow solo run so that it can untie a knot in the book that I didn’t even know was there. When I came up with a new narrative structure for the book, I took it out on the run, and wrote an email to my agent before the sweat on my face had cooled.

Those blocks of time set aside for running are just as crucial to my day as those earmarked for interviewing experts, writing this column, and fact checking what kinds of plants I ran past in my first 15K race so I get that part of the book just right.

Which is why I still ran on Tuesday morning, focusing on breathing in and out as I ratcheted up the speed each kilometre, though I did stop once to type a note into my iPhone about a change I needed to make in chapter 3. By the time I got to my desk that morning, face still pink from the run, I launched at the manuscript with gusto and my purple editing pen. By 4 p.m. that afternoon, I had showered and changed, and all five chapters waited for my editor. I celebrated by skipping around the room and dancing on a loveseat.

Running has been with me for the last nine years, through grief, heart break, two books now turning into three, through wild highs and tar pit lows. I’m not about to give up on it when I need it most, just like it won’t give up on me.

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