Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Secrets of Kidlit: What Running the Marathon Taught Me

A few years ago I ran the New York City Marathon. It had been a lifelong dream of mine to run and FINISH the grueling 26.2 mile race. I say finish, because, really, finishing is the most important part, right? I had been training for months and just two weeks before the race I tore the meniscus in my knee and needed an injection of cortisone just to walk. Did it really matter how quickly I finished? Its 26.2 miles! I told myself if I finished in an upright position that was good enough.

I was pumped on race day, and my knee was feeling pretty good. I took off quick across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge with a gazillion other runners and made my way into Brooklyn. I was invincible; pumping my arms in the air to the cheers of my adoring fans screaming my name as I zipped past.

(My husband was clever enough to iron on my name to the back of my running jersey. I don’t really have adoring fans. But I should.)

My knee first started to tingle around the 13 mile mark, but no big deal. I pushed forward. I was a running goddess! I OWNED that marathon. 

I started getting tired on the entrance ramp to the Queensboro Bridge,  around the 15 mile mark. Look, I had just finished 15 miles. Of course I was tired! And yet, before me stood a bridge.

A view of the Queensboro Bridge

You don’t realize it when you’re driving in a car, but bridges are shaped like arcs, which meant I had to run up a huge hill. Tired and achy, the uphill on the bridge completely wore me down. I reached the center of the bridge and I should have celebrated the reward of a long downhill span, except my knee was now throbbing and felt jiggly with each step.

But I told myself to push through it. I knew my family had taken position to cheer me on just a mile up First Avenue. Seeing my family was motivation enough to keep going. 

 I finally spotted my family.  The kids were waving their handmade signs. I sprinted as fast as I could towards them and when my kids spotted me they cheered “yay mom!”  as my husband started snapping pictures. I reached my family and stopped for hugs and kisses--and to catch my breath.

And then I couldn’t start again.

My legs felt like lead weight.

I begged my feet to just GO.


Writing a manuscript is like running a marathon. You’re pumped at the beginning, but as things get harder or you hit a bump in your story arc, it’s hard to motivate yourself to push through it. The secret: DON'T STOP.

Your goal is to get to the end of the book. Just like my marathon, if you stop it will be that much harder for you to start again. First drafts are not supposed to be flawless. The goal is to get to the finish line. Don’t worry if you have gaping plot holes or your research isn’t perfect. Insert a quick comment in your manuscript that says “add more detail here later” or “don’t forget to confirm the flight time between Chicago and Phoenix.” But, don’t stop writing! It’s okay if you realize half way through the book that you should have mentioned your main character’s prize winning rose garden back in chapter two. Don’t go back to fix it! You’ll catch all these changes, and more, during the revision process. Just keep writing.

And most importantly, suppress that inner editor! Don’t waste time making your sentences perfect. Sure, you probably omitted a few hundred commas. So what? You may decide to cut entire sections of your manuscript during the revision process. What’s the point of making the sentences shine if they’re going to be tossed later? Remember the goal: get to the finish line. Don’t let your inner editor get in the way.

And how did the marathon end for me? I’m proud to report that I crossed the finish line with a time of five hours and fourteen minutes.

I had hoped to finish in less than five hours, but considering my injury I was pleased.

I just wish I hadn’t stopped!

Do you write trying not to stop? Or do you revise and edit as you go?

-- Ella


  1. WOW. for finishing, and posting this. I run often, but I've never considered running the marathon. I just use my 5k a few times a week to unwind and correct my hormonal balance.
    But I truly believe, my running helped my discipline for writing. For sure. Love this! --(don't know if I'm *really* allowed to comment--but wow, Ella!)

    1. Thanks Karen. The NYC Marathon had always been on my bucket list. Finishing was exhilarating--like typing THE END on a manuscript. I still run whenever I can, but I don't think I can handle another marathon.

  2. Fabulous job! Running a marathon is hard work and with knew pain it is even harder. I loved your advice about not stopping. It is so true with most things in life. It definitely applies to writing and I liked how you mentioned that whole sections of our MS may get cut anyway- so no need to worry about every edit along the way. Thanks for the inspiration! :)

  3. Thanks for stopping by Stephanie! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  4. Wow, Ella! I admire how you pushed through the pain.


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