10Ks, Mud Runs, Writing, and Overcoming Obstacles

I’m somewhere in the mire of Book 4 of A Song of Ice and Fire, while moving, working, and existing. Things on the reading and writing front are slow-going at the moment. But here’s a little something for you to read in the meantime.

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Recently, I ran my first 10K. And not just any 10K (that’s 6.2 miles for all you who don’t remember learning the metric system). It was a 10k Mud Run, complete with obstacles, run on a U.S. Marine Base.

Challenging? You bet.

Around mile one, we got hit with a firehose.

Around mile two, running through sand, I felt like giving up.

Around mile three, my thighs were screaming at me as we climbed uphill.

Mile four was okay, running downhill, but a persistent stitch in my side threatened to derail the last two miles of the run.

Around mile five, I decided that mud smells really bad, is really heavy, and makes your muscles dead tired.

Around mile six, I started to feel faint and like I might be going into an out-of-body experience.

6.2 and done.

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I haven’t done one of these in a while, but if you’re a long time reader of Isle of Books, you’re probably sensing this experience is about to become a giant writing metaphor.

Yahtzee.

They say that running is like 90% mental and 10% physical. That running a marathon or a half-marathon is all about training your mind to allow your body to hit the limits and keep going. Some people who are fond of backpacking, ultra marathons, triathlons, and extreme sports that test your physical durability, often liken it to a religious experience, through which you discover the means to examine your own soul.

That’s about right.

I was not super well prepared for this race. I only had about a month to train. I knew this was going to be tough and my goal was merely to finish. I figured finishing was a worthy enough goal…I certainly had my doubts about my ability to accomplish it.

You’re supposed to run these things for yourself. You can’t do it for anyone else. Or at least, supposedly you can’t.

I ran it because I didn’t want to let my boyfriend down. I climbed over those obstacles I was terrified of to prove to myself I could. And I finished the whole damn thing because, let’s face it, after that what can’t you do?

I once had a writing teacher who told me that sometimes the stories we tell are our soul’s way of working out problems, of discovering answers to things we deem to be valuable questions.

I think we undertake these extreme physical adventures for the same reason. Perhaps it’s to prove something to ourselves. Or to somebody else. Perhaps it’s for a reason we can’t even really put our finger on.

Sometimes the stories we write, we never know why we’re writing them until late in the game. Or maybe we don’t ever really know. Maybe someone else has to tell us.

George Orwell famously said, “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

Tell your friends you’re writing a novel and tell your friends you’re running a marathon. You’ll get nearly the same reaction.

Why would do that to yourself? I hate writing/running.

And my personal favorite, the slight nose scrunch and lip curl.

We never need to explain these things to other people. These activities are personal journeys that simply take a different form. Rather than journaling or talking it out with someone, we choose to uncover the mysteries of our existences through punitive physical and mental exertion.

After the race, I laid on the grass for a good ten or so minutes, not sure if I was going to make it or not. It’s the same feeling that comes when you finish a first draft, a rewrite, your story, or your novel as a whole. You’re utterly exhausted, relieved, at peace, and damn happy.

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