Words For Writers From My Running Muse

My writing muse hightailed it out of town around Thanksgiving -for the sun and sand of the Caribbean no doubt. I haven’t heard from her since – as evidenced by my lack of an IWSG post last month and my infrequent blog updates. Writing muse is a flighty muse who comes and goes as she pleases. She is nothing like my running muse who never takes a day off. He’s a drill sergeant who wakes up every day and starts barking at me to run. The only time he ever took a vacation was during my pregnancy – but that’s another post for another support group.

My running muse never lets up!

Running muse accepts no excuses. Raining, snowing, freezing or sweltering, no weather is too bad for running. When I tell my writing muse, I’m too tired to write, she says, “Oh you poor, dear. Just rest now.”

Telling my running muse I’m too tired is not even an option. The response is always the same -“Running will give you energy.” And he’s right about 98% of the time.

No doubt, running muse is an excellent motivator before and during a run:

“You can go faster than this!”

“Speed it up!”

“Just one more mile.”

“Oh, look, a hill! Run it.”

Despite the constant motivation, I sometimes feel insecure in my running because I’m not very fast. To which running muse replies, “Hogwash!” He reminds me that I’m a heck of a lot faster than I was when I first started running and much faster than I was when I started again after my pregnancy break. He also reminds me that speed doesn’t make me a runner. What makes me a runner is running everyday and enjoying it. And since writing muse is on vacation, running muse also reminds me that it should be the same with writing.

Running muse also reminds me that if I am passionate and enjoy writing as much as I enjoy running, then I must take risks. On a recent Monday-evening run a couple weeks ago, with about one mile left of my run, I wanted to get off the main road, but my go-to place to run a few miles without traffic – the campus of a closed school -had the gates up with the ‘Closed’ sign on them. I’m not much of a rule breaker, but (with the encouragement of running muse) I decided to risk it and run through the campus anyway.

After running along the main, lighted and traffic-free road through campus, a security guard stopped me and said politely that when the gates are up, the campus is closed and I’d have to leave. Although, it wasn’t, it felt like a reprimand. My stomach started to  churn like it did when I was scolded by a teacher in school. But running muse wasn’t the least bit bothered by the guard’s words. I got my mile and a little bit more in and no harm was done. So what if the guard told me to leave? I was leaving anyway.

Rejection can sometimes seem a lot like a reprimand to me. The words make my stomach churn and I feel like I did something wrong, like I’ve failed.

“Hogwash!” Running muse barks. I did the right thing by submitting my writing. Just because it’s not selected doesn’t mean I’m a failure. I’m only a failure if I don’t submit. Some risks in life are worth taking, especially in regards to my writing. Rejection just makes me stronger, tougher and better. Rejection is a part of the writing process, just as sore knees and blisters are a part of the running process. The important thing is to never give up and keep writing!

I think when my writing muse comes back I’m going to send her to a boot-camp lead by my running muse. She needs some of his discipline!

Little Red Running Fleece

Nestled in the hills of West Virginia is a little town called Rachel, home to a post office, Downs United Methodist Church and my parents. During a visit in early December, I had a choice between running along the winding back roads or along the rocky defunct train tracks. I usually avoid the roads because of the narrowness and frequent blind bends. My main concern about the trail following the old train tracks was hunters; it was the height of hunting season after-all. When I expressed my concern about running along the old train rails, my mother said, “Oh they aren’t hunting along the trail.” Great! I made my decision.

As I reached the start of the trail, heading towards me in a bright, neon orange vest carrying a rifle in one hand was a bearded man. Ha! I was right and Mom was wrong! But my inner gloating was interrupted by a gunshot echoing in the air. Well, while my original worry had just been confirmed, nothing short of a giant black bear standing on the path was going to stop my momentum. I was wearing my red fleece pull-over and matching red fleece hat so even if it was an overcast dreary day, a hunter wasn’t likely to mistake me for a deer. I figured the odds were in my favor and continued to run.

Unlike most rails-to-trails, this trail was not paved; instead, it was lined with fist-sized chunks of gravel –most definitely not ideal running terrain, but if I was careful and watched my feet, I could lower my chances of twisting my ankle or falling. I ran slowly and carefully along the rough path enjoying the peace and quiet.

Eventually, I made it to the neighboring town and increased my pace. I ran along residential streets past the library, the school, and churches until I made it back to the wooded trail that would lead me back to my parent’s house. My mind was wandering ahead already –imagining a hot bath in a large claw-foot bathtub. Startling me out of my thoughts, a four-wheeler roared past me, not slowing down or seeming to care if I managed to get out of its way.

Fuming at the driver’s rudeness, I resumed running while contemplating hurling a hunk of gravel at the driver’s head. As I turned a bend in the trail, the first tingle of fear tickled my spine. Ahead of me, pulled off a little to the side was the four-wheeler and driver. My pace slowed as I considered my options. Maybe the driver was having mechanical difficulties; maybe the driver wanted to apologize for being a jerk; maybe the driver was waiting to attack me, or kidnap me!

Awareness of my vulnerable situation struck me like a red brick through a glass window, shattering the peaceful solitude and any illusions I had of safety. I was completely alone in the woods of rural West Virginia. I didn’t have my cell phone or anything to use as a weapon. On my left was the steep side of a hill and on my right was an embankment leading to a creek. If I had to, I could jump into the water to escape, but it was early December and the temperatures would be freezing. Would the driver follow me and try to drown me?

As I got closer to the four-wheeler, my heart-rate tripled and I prayed fervently that I was overreacting. I ran by and noticed a couple things about the driver: he was wearing an orange jumpsuit and a helmet with a tinted visor –well protected from pepper spray or a large rock. He didn’t acknowledge me in any way and didn’t immediately follow me. I breathed a sigh of relief and my fear subsided. Phew! It was just my overactive imagination fueled by too many crime dramas.

Or at least I thought so for a few minutes until the four-wheeler passed me again and again stopped as if to wait for me. I didn’t see any rifles or a bow, so while the driver was dressed for hunting, he didn’t appear to be actively hunting –at least not actively hunting an animal, but according to a recent episode of CSI: Miami I’d watched, men did hunt humans for sport. This time I was sure the driver was playing with me.

As I prepared to pass him for a second time –only because I had no other choice –I braced myself for whatever he might say. As a long time runner, I’ve experienced come-ons, insults and threats while running –not often and rarely intimidating, but it has happened. As I ran past him, he said nothing. His silence was more threatening than any comment I’d heard in the past.

By this point, the end of the trail was close and I ran as fast as I could until finally the trees gave way to houses. As my fear fully evaporated, I debated whether to share the experience with my family. I knew my husband would scold me. He always tells me to take my cell phone and I nearly always forget it. It wouldn’t have done me much good anyway in this situation; the driver of the four-wheeler would have finished with me or carried me off way before the police could have reached me; however, if the crime shows I watch are right, they could have tracked me through my cell phone had I actually been kidnapped; regardless, my husband was going to be a tad irate with me if I told him what had happened.

However, the upside was that this incident had succeeded in convincing me of what my husband couldn’t – running alone can be dangerous. It’s important to take precautions, like carrying a cell phone and even some pepper spray. It’s also a good idea to let someone know how long I plan to run and to map out my route so that someone knows where to look for me if I’m late.

Despite the scary episode in the backwoods of West Virginia, I’m not scared to run alone or on wooded trails, but I am smarter about safety. There are big bad wolfs out there and a girl’s got to be prepared.

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I was very fortunate that nothing happened to me on that run. I’m still thanking God for protecting me. My prayers are with missing runner Sherry Arnold’s family and friends.

 

Words of Wisdom for 2012

We find time for the things that are important to us. Period.

~ Scott Douglas, Scott’s Original Miscellany, Running Times – March 2011

I always find time to run. It doesn’t matter how hectic life is, I run through it. My goal for 2012 is to make writing as big a part of my daily routine. A day without a run makes me twitchy. A day without writing is just another day -I rarely give it a second thought until I go to bed and realize, “Shoot! I didn’t write today! Oh well.” Commence snoring, which is to say that a day without writing doesn’t plague me with guilt and keep me up at night like a day without running does. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t want to add more guilt to my life, but I do want to make writing as important as running so that I will be motivated to do it everyday. Now how do I do that?

Other bloggers have given me some great suggestions in just one word –

Cyndi @ Walking in Grace and Beauty‘s word for 2012 – Focus

Cyndi reminds me to keep my focus on what is truly important – my relationship with the Lord. Running enriches this relationship and so does writing. Through running I grow closer to God and writing brings me closer to Him as well. By focusing on my faith, running and writing become monumentally important and worthwhile pursuits.

Mel @ Adventuroo‘s word for 2012 – Simplify

Mel reminds me to keep it simple and not make writing overly complicated. My everyday writing does not have to lead to a published manuscript. Everyday writing can be simple and straightforward.

Tyrean @ Tyrean’s Writing Spot‘s words for 2012 – Just keep writing and enjoy the journey

To me running is about the journey, not the destination. The very simple act of putting one foot in front of the other soothes frazzled nerves and renews my spirit. It can be the same with writing. Focusing on the simple act of writing and not on publishing the finished product, will go a long way in helping to make writing a daily habit.

Are you an everyday writer who wants to make exercise an everyday habit? Is there a way we can help each other? Can I mail you a slice of my running drive and you mail me a sliver of your drive to write? Do you have a word for 2012?

Have A Merry Running Christmas

‘Tis the season for celebrating — for parties, decorations, and for rejoicing. In all the holiday hub-bub, it may be hard to make time to run, but running can be a festive activity too! Here are some tips for making your next run a merry ole’ time:

  • Run wearing a Santa hat – Bring a smile to the faces of your neighbors and drivers alike!
  • Run with bells on – String a few little bells on your shoelaces or add some sleigh bells to the jogging stroller (just a little warning – this could be a tad overwhelming on long runs)!
  • Run with Christmas tunes – Rock out to some upbeat carols and spread some joy by bursting into song every mile or so!
  • Run at night to see the lights – Sometimes it’s a bit intimidating to run at night. But there’s no better time to give it a go than at Christmas when white and colorful lights adorn the neighborhood. Just don’t forget to don your own reflective gear!
  • Run and rejoice in the reason for the season – Read the Christmas story in Luke before heading out and reflect on Jesus’ birth as you run. It’s a great way to refresh your spirit and put Christmas back in the right perspective.

Wishing you and yours a blessed Christmas!

4 Reasons To Run With A Jogging Stroller

I used to think satisfaction came at the end, at the finish line. Now I know that what I see or smell or do on the way is much more significant than the distance we covered or how fast we did it. Susan Williams, A Mother And Son As Training Partners

Honestly, my jogging stroller is heavy! Monkey is now 30 pounds and I don’t know what the stroller weighs, but whatever it is -it’s weighty. Today, as I was running past a couple of my neighbors, they joked, “The speed limit is 25mph through here!”

For a second it bothered me that I was slow enough that my neighbors felt compelled to make a joke about it, but I’m not that fast without the stroller, except on the days after I’ve run with the jogging stroller – I feel so light and free without the extra weight that I do go faster. So while, I may have been going slow today, I’ll be going faster tomorrow.

Not every run has to be a race. And there are benefits to running (slowly) with a jogging stroller.

  • Form. When I run sans stroller I tend to focus on my feet and my shoulders hunch. I have to keep reminding myself to straighten up, but with the stroller, I always look ahead and my grip on the stroller keeps my shoulders straight and my posture erect.
  • Hill Training. Pushing a stroller, up even slight and moderate hills, has made running up hill on my own seem like a breeze — most of the time.
  • Quality Time. I cherish every moment of running with Monkey. Seeing the world through her eyes is magical. She has so many questions and so much she wants to do. Her excitement bubbles over and captures me as well.
  • A Different Perspective. Racing, chasing, holding hands, laughing, shuffling through piles of leaves, the sun on her skin, the lights in her eyes, the joy vibrating around her – all reminders that running is just pure fun, no matter how slow or fast I go.

Chasing Shadows

 

Today was simply beautiful. The temperature was warm in the 60s with no wind and the sun shone brightly in the baby blue sky -perfect conditions for a lovely fall run with Monkey.

On the track today we ran together holding hands and crossing the finish line together so we both ‘won.’ We chased our shadows, stepped on each other’s shadow, and merged our shadows into one ‘monster’ shadow. Monkey also picked the few remaining dandelions.

On our way to the creek, she fell asleep and napped for maybe 15 minutes. She woke up in time to stop at the creek and toss sticks into the water.

I got a great workout pushing Monkey in her jogging stroller up a hill because our regular route was blocked by big tree limbs that fell down during the snow we had a week ago.

A metaphorical tree limb fell in my path on Friday and rather than turn to God for the strength and wisdom to navigate, I panicked. I’m deeply ashamed to admit that I blamed God for putting the tree in my way as punishment. I stumbled over the limb, tripped and got trapped in the tiny branches. Only when I was completely helpless did I realize that I was blaming God because I didn’t trust him as much as I thought.

It’s a challenge for me to trust God when something bad happens, but I desperately want to trust in God as Job did – “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (Job 1:22). I have to stop obsessing over what has happened. I’ve been living with it, enduring it, but not accepting it and trusting God to take care of it. It’s time to stop chasing shadows of why, what if and what will. It’s time to start admitting my own powerlessness and recognizing who is all powerful.

When The Running Ain’t Easy

As a long time runner, I know there are going to be days when my legs feel like dead weight, when one mile feels like ten, and when the weather makes me want to stay in bed. Monday was one of those days.

The Bad and Ugly of Monday’s Run

  • My cold.
  • An almost flat right back tire on the stroller.
  • Rain.

The Good of Monday’s Run

  • My daughter’s peeling laughter as she ran beside me.
  • My daughter’s hand firmly holding onto my pants.
  • My daughter shouting, “This is fun!”
  • My daughter saying, “We both win,” as we finish our last lap around the track.
  • Remembering to bring along the rain shield for the stroller.
  • Sprinting through the rain.

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Every time I go out there, I win. Every time I finish the task that I’ve set before myself, I win again. ~ David James Elliott, Actor