The brawn of one and the brain of the other combine in a beautiful synergy

Despite having run and completed four marathons and now three half-marathons (London’s Big Half in September was my latest), I still struggle to get going sometimes. Even my usual eight-mile run is a slog at the start occasionally. I either sprint away and tire quickly or kick off with the kind of jog that would see a turtle bomb past me and crack jokes at my pace.

Similarly, when it comes to writing, the beginning is often arduous. It takes me a while to conjure up the words and phrases that will convey the message of my piece. No matter how much I cajole or trick my brain into handing over the precious material I’m after, my grey matter eludes and mocks me defiantly.

Yet, at the weekend, there was a beautiful moment at the start of the Vitality Big Half when I felt that this time my run was going to be just fine. Maybe it was the music I’d brought with me (my playlist kicked off with James Brown’s Sunny. You can never go wrong with that), but as soon as I began to move, something clicked. This was reflected in my time: one hour and forty-eight minutes.

The same process occurs when I have a blank page in front of me. Words tumble out and trip over each other like drunkards filing out of a Shoreditch bar after closing hours. Phrases that had hitherto evaded me like butterflies ducking spiders’ webs in mid-September re-align themselves like toy soldiers on a child’s bedroom shelf.

The reason I run is not just health- or fitness-related. I run to create my own space in the world. All five feet and nine inches of me fill it up with my presence. Like Bjork, I have an Army of Me. They all wear tabards and running shoes. They pound the pavements for pounds. They fundraise for charities and raise awareness of their work. They complete half-marathons and marathons.

The writer in me follows the same trajectory. Each verb and noun is a declaration of selfhood. Of being. Of existing. That’s why it’s so bloody hard to get started. Every time I sit down to put fingers on the keyboard, I invoke another mutation, another me, to spring forth. I invite another layer of my complex personality to step forward. It’s not easy, but, oh, how wondrous, how extraordinary this never-ending creative process is! To witness it is to be exposed to the miraculous essence of humanity. To live it is to regain faith (in its broadest sense) in the power of creativity.

Just like the finish line hovers in the distance beckoning the resolute runner, inviting them to cross it and relish their achievement, the completed page or manuscript fulfills a similar function. The latter is the culmination of the slog at the beginning, the slow, hurdle-threatening start which, through sheer determination and hard work, gives us the spiritual, mental, and intellectual reward we deserve.

The extra bonus is that we probably will have forgotten about the teasing turtle by now.


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